Nonoperative management of blunt abdominal trauma: the role of sequential diagnostic peritoneal lavage, computed tomography, and angiography

B J Baron, T M Scalea, S J Sclafani, A O Duncan, S Z Trooskin, G M Shapiro, T F Phillips, A M Goldstein, N A Atweh, E E Vieux
Annals of Emergency Medicine 1993, 22 (10): 1556-62

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To determine the usefulness of sequential nonoperative diagnostic studies in the evaluation and treatment of stable patients after blunt abdominal trauma.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Retrospective review of a prospective treatment plan in a large urban Level I trauma center.

PARTICIPANTS: Fifty-two patients deemed stable after initial evaluation following blunt abdominal trauma.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients with a positive diagnostic peritoneal lavage for red blood cells underwent abdominal computed tomography (CT) scanning. If CT demonstrated a visceral injury, it was followed by diagnostic angiography. Attempts were made to treat on-going bleeding by transcatheter embolization.

RESULTS: Fifteen patients had negative CT scans and were successfully observed. In the other 37 patients, CT identified 17 liver, 16 splenic, and eight kidney injuries; eight extra-peritoneal bleeds; and one mesenteric hematoma. Six of these patients were observed. Thirty underwent diagnostic angiograms. Twelve had no active bleeding, and all were observed successfully. Seventeen underwent successful embolization of the bleeding site(s). One had injuries not controllable by embolization and required exploration. Six patients required laparotomy later in their course, but none had intra-abdominal bleeding or a missed intestinal injury. Despite being performed after diagnostic peritoneal lavage, CT missed only two injuries. There was one main complication, delayed recognition of a diaphragmatic injury. Three patients died, two from multiple organ failure and one from a pulmonary embolus; none was believed to be related to this technique. With our algorithm, 45 patients (86%) were spared laparotomy.

CONCLUSION: Diagnostic peritoneal lavage and CT are complementary when evaluating blunt abdominal trauma. Diagnostic peritoneal lavage is an effective screening tool. CT may be reserved for stable patients with a positive diagnostic peritoneal lavage to specify the organs injured. Bleeding often may be treated by embolization, limiting the rate of surgery.

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