BACKGROUND Nontherapeutic laparotomy and thoracotomy rates in penetrating torso trauma remain high. The aim of this study was to define the value of helical computed tomography (CT) in this emergency situation. MATERIAL AND METHODS Retrospectively, we studied 11 hemodynamically stable patients with penetrating injury to the torso admitted to our trauma center over a 3-year period who underwent intravenous contrasted helical CT immediately after admission. A positive CT scan was defined as showing any evidence of intrathoracal or intra-abdominal injury necessitating immediate operation. Patients with positive CT underwent laparotomy and/or thoracotomy. Patients with negative CT were observed. RESULTS Eleven consecutive patients were studied: nine male, two female; mean age 39 years (range 19-62). Nine stab wounds and two shotgun wounds were seen. Seven patients had positive helical CT findings, and four patients were negative. All patients with positive CT findings were operated on; those with negative scans recovered uneventfully. This imaging method accurately predicted whether thoracotomy or laparotomy was needed in 10/11 cases. CONCLUSION In penetrating torso trauma, helical CT can clarify the need for thoracotomy or laparotomy vs nonoperative treatment.