Nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries: factors influencing success in age >55 years

Roxie M Albrecht, Carol R Schermer, Amy Morris
American Surgeon 2002, 68 (3): 227-30; discussion 230-1
Historically poor success rates of nonoperative management of splenic injuries in elderly patients have led to recommendations for operative intervention in patients more than 55 years of age. Recent studies are in opposition to earlier recommendations revealing equal success rates of nonoperative management of splenic injuries in all age groups. A retrospective chart review was performed to assess factors related to the successful management of splenic injuries in patients over 55 years of age at a Level I trauma center. Thirty-seven patients over 55 presented with blunt splenic injuries during the 5-year study period. Thirteen patients were taken immediately to the operating room on the basis of clinical findings and/or abdomen/pelvis CT results. Nonoperative management was attempted in 24 patients on the basis of CT findings. Nonoperative management was successful in 15 patients (62.5%) and failed in eight patients (33.3%). Patients who failed nonoperative management had significantly higher American Association for the Surgery of Trauma splenic injury grade and associated pelvic free fluid. There were no deaths related to complications from failed nonoperative management. We conclude that nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries in patients over 55 may be attempted. Patients with higher-grade injuries and pelvic free fluid are at greater risk for failure. Patients with these two findings must be monitored closely. The physicians caring for elderly patients with high-grade splenic injuries and free fluid in the pelvis must use clinical judgment regarding the need and timing of operative management.

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