Nonoperative management of adult blunt splenic trauma: a 15-year experience

H Wasvary, G Howells, M Villalba, B Madrazo, P Bendick, M DeAngelis, H Bair, R Lucas
American Surgeon 1997, 63 (8): 694-9
From January 1989 to December 1993, 40 consecutive adult patients with ruptured spleen from blunt trauma were examined. Fourteen patients (35%) were taken to the operating room initially because of hemodynamic instability and generalized peritoneal signs. Twenty-six patients (65%) were hemodynamically stabilized at admission and treated by nonoperative management, which included strict bed rest, intensive care unit monitoring, frequent physical examinations, and serial hematocrits. Four patients failed nonsurgical management and required a splenectomy, three because of clinical deterioration within 1 to 3 days of admission; the fourth patient had recurrent bleeding 7 days after injury. The patients in the operative group had a greater severity of injury with a mean injury severity score of 26.6, four deaths, and mean transfusion requirements of 3.7 to 4.0 units of blood, compared to a mean injury severity score of 14.6, one late death from cardiac causes, and average blood requirement of 0.4 to 0.7 units. Splenic injury grading averaged 3.2 in the surgical group (grade 1, one patient; grade 2, four patients; grade 3, eight patients; grade 4, no patients; and grade 5, one patient) and differed significantly from that of the nonoperative group (mean = 2.4; grade 1, 12 patients; grade 2, seven patients; grade 3, six patients; grade 4, two patients; and grade 5, no patients). Recent ultrasound analysis of select grades I to IV has shown excellent resolution or repair of these injuries. This report extends our series from 1978 to 1993 and includes 144 adult patients sustaining blunt splenic ruptures. Seventy-nine (55%) of these patients were treated nonsurgically. Seven patients (of 80) failed nonoperative management and required interval laparotomy, representing a 91 per cent success rate. Follow-up on more than 90 per cent of the patients has shown no sequelae from their splenic injuries. We conclude that adult patients with splenic injuries from blunt trauma who are hemodynamically stable and are without abdominal findings requiring celiotomy can be safely managed by a nonoperative approach.

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