Determinants and outcomes of nonoperative management for blunt traumatic aortic injuries

Harleen K Sandhu, Samuel D Leonard, Alexa Perlick, Naveed U Saqib, Charles C Miller, Kristofer M Charlton-Ouw, Hazim J Safi, Ali Azizzadeh
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2018, 67 (2): 389-398

OBJECTIVE: The natural history and parameters for successful nonoperative management of blunt traumatic aortic injuries (BTAIs) involving the descending aorta are poorly understood. We examined our experience with nonoperative BTAI treatment (anti-impulse, blood pressure) and evaluated for determinants of successful outcomes.

METHODS: We performed a review of our institutional prospective trauma registry database for all BTAI patients from 1999 to 2015. Computed tomography angiography was used to classify aortic injuries on the basis of severity: grade I, intimal tear; grade II, intramural hematoma; grade III, aortic pseudoaneurysm; and grade IV, free rupture. Grade IV injuries were excluded from nonoperative management. Baseline characteristics, clinical outcomes, and follow-up lesion resolution were compared within the medically managed cohort and between surgical and nonoperative groups using univariate and multivariable analysis.

RESULTS: Among 338 BTAI patients admitted between 1999 and 2015, 67 BTAI patients were managed nonoperatively; 26 (54%) had grade I BTAI, 22 (46%) had grade II, and 2 (4%) had grade III. Both grade III injuries required a late thoracic endovascular aortic repair after initial medical management and were excluded from analysis. In all, 48 were managed with initial medical therapy, and the remaining 19 died on admission or before definitive treatment. Among the 48 medically managed, the median age was 34 years, and 14 (29%) were female. Six of the 48 (12%) were transferred from other facilities. There was no significant difference in baseline characteristics or early outcomes between BTAI grades. Median injury resolution time was 39 days for grade I and 62 days for grade II (P = .03). Compared with a surgical cohort, BTAI grade and Abbreviated Injury Scale score for the chest were the only significant determinants of propensity to operate.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on these limited data, it appears that patients with minimal aortic injuries (grades I and II) may be managed medically, with the majority resolving within 8 weeks. Minimal aortic injury is associated with low mortality and excellent intermediate-term outcomes. Further prospective studies are required to validate these findings.

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