Blunt splenic injuries: dedicated trauma surgeons can achieve a high rate of nonoperative success in patients of all ages

J G Myers, D L Dent, R M Stewart, G A Gray, D S Smith, J E Rhodes, H D Root, B A Pruitt, W E Strodel
Journal of Trauma 2000, 48 (5): 801-5; discussion 805-6

BACKGROUND: Selective nonoperative management (NOM) of blunt splenic injuries is becoming a more prevalent practice. Inclusion criteria for NOM, which have been a source of controversy, continue to evolve. Age > or = 55 years has been proposed as a predictor for failure of and even a contraindication to NOM of blunt splenic trauma. Additionally, the high rate of NOM in children (up to 79%) has been attributed to their management by pediatric surgeons. We evaluated our experience with NOM of blunt splenic injury with special attention to these age groups.

METHODS: By using our trauma registry, all patients with blunt splenic injuries (documented by computed tomography, operative findings, or both) cared for over a 36-month period, at a single American College of Surgeons verified Level I trauma center were reviewed. Detailed chart reviews were performed to examine admission demographics, laboratory data, radiologic findings, outcome measures, and patient management strategy. All patients were managed by nonpediatric trauma surgeons. We then compared our adult data with that in the recent literature and our pediatric data with that of the National Pediatric Trauma Registry over the same time period.

RESULTS: We identified 251 consecutive patients with blunt splenic injuries. Eighteen patients who expired in the immediate postinjury period were excluded from statistical evaluation. No deaths occurred as a result of splenic injury. Of the remaining 233 patients, 73 patients (31%) required early celiotomy, 160 patients (69%) were selected for NOM, with 151 patients (94%) being successfully managed without operation. Blunt splenic injury occurred in 23 patients age 55 years or older. Eighteen patients (78%) were selected for NOM and 17 patients (94%) were successfully treated without operation. Blunt splenic injury occurred in 35 patients less than 16 years of age. Thirty-two patients (91%) were selected for NOM. Thirty-one patients (89% of all pediatric patients) were successfully treated without operation.

CONCLUSION: Age > or = 55 years is not a contraindication to nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries. Children with blunt splenic injuries can be successfully managed nonoperatively by nonpediatric trauma surgeons.

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