Seatbelt sign (abdomen)

Dr David Carroll and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

The seatbelt sign is both a clinical and radiological sign. It is simply the presence of ecchymosis and/or abraded skin in the distribution of a seatbelt (i.e. horizontal and/or diagonal) extending across the abdomen evident after a motor vehicle accident.


A positive abdominal seatbelt sign, in combination with abdominal pain or tenderness, results in a higher likelihood of intra-abdominal injuries; some cohorts demonstrate a higher incidence of solid organ injuries 6 and others bowel/mesenteric injury 1,3. There exists little consensus regarding the significance of the specific (i.e. ecchymosis/abrasion) superficial injury present as it pertains to underlying injuries. CT of the abdomen/pelvis is highly sensitive in these patients for identifying significant intraabdominal injuries requiring exploratory laparotomy 6

See also

Article information

rID: 35360
Section: Signs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Seat belt sign
  • Lap belt sign
  • Seat belt injury
  • Lap belt injury

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Cases and figures

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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4
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  • Case 5
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  • Case 6: with small bowel and mesenteric injury
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