Nonoperative management of solid organ injuries: Past, present, and future

M. M. Knudson*, K. I. Maull

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


All patients with injuries to the solid organs of the abdomen and who are hemodynamically stable should be considered candidates for nonoperative management after their injuries have been staged by abdominal CT scanning, but because the CT stage of the injury does not always predict which patients require laparotomy, these patients must remain under the care of experienced trauma surgeons who can not only recognize the presence of an associated hollow viscus injury in need of repair but also will be readily available to operate if the nonoperative approach fails. Until continued bleeding can be safely ruled out, a period of close monitoring in an ICU-like setting seems warranted. Although delayed bleeding from the liver seems extremely rare, delayed rupture of the spleen and continued hemorrhage into the retroperitoneum from an injured kidney are not unusual, so patients with splenic and renal injuries should be considered candidates for repeat imaging procedures before discharge. Others likely to benefit from a second look at their injuries include patients with subcapsular hematomas, patients with recognized extravasation on the initial scan, and athletes anxious to return to contact sports. Experience from major trauma centers suggests that the incidence of missed intestinal injuries is low in adults and children managed nonoperatively, but surgeons must be diligent in monitoring for increasing abdominal pain, abdominal distention, vomiting, and signs of inflammation, which may be delayed manifestations of intestinal disruption. Patients with vascular injuries (grade V injuries to the spleen, liver, or kidney) may be candidates for radiologic procedures, such as angioembolization or stenting, but some of these patients are best served by immediate laparotomy. Selected patients with penetrating injuries may also be candidates for the nonoperative approach, but further research in this area is needed before this approach can be widely embraced. As we approach the year 2000, the nonoperative approach to hepatic, splenic, and renal injuries will continue to have a major role in the treatment of trauma patients. Currently, the morbidity and mortality rates of nonoperative management are acceptably low, but surgeons still must monitor their results carefully as they apply these methods more liberally among injured patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1371
Number of pages15
JournalSurgical Clinics of North America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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