Status of nonoperative management of blunt hepatic injuries in 1995: A multicenter experience with 404 patients

H. Leon Pachter*, M. Margaret Knudson, Barry Esrig, Steven Ross, David Hoyt, Thomas Cogbill, Harold Sherman, Thomas Scalea, Paul Harrison, Steven Shackford, M. Gage Ochsner, Peter Mucha, Steven R. Hofstetter, Amber Guth, Susan Coffey, Sandeep Kataju, Robert Marburger, Joan Garcia, Beth Savage, Sharon HenryDiana Lippold, Gino Trevesani, Jeffrey Steinig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

362 Scopus citations


Introduction: Nonoperative management is presently considered the treatment modality of choice in over 50% of adult patients sustaining blunt hepatic trauma who meet inclusion criteria. A multicenter study was retrospectively undertaken to assess whether the combined experiences at level I trauma centers could validate the currently reported high success rate, low morbidity, and virtually nonexistent mortality associated with this approach. Thirteen level I trauma centers accrued 404 adult patients sustaining blunt hepatic injuries managed nonoperatively over the last 5 years. Seventy-two percent of the injuries resulted from motor vehicle crashes. The mean injury severity score for the entire group was 20.2 (range, 4-75), and the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma-computerized axial tomography scan grading was as follows: grade 1, 19% (n = 76); grade II, 31% (n = 124); grade III, 36% (n = 146); grade IV, 10% (n = 42); and grade V, 4% (n = 16). There were 27 deaths (7%) in the series, with 59% directly related to head trauma. Only two deaths (0.4%) could be attributed to hepatic injury. Twenty-one (5%) complications were documented, with the most common being hemorrhage, occurring in 14 (3.5%). Only 3 (0.7%) of these 14 patients required surgical intervention, 6 were treated by transfusions alone (0.5 to 5 U), 4 underwent angio-embolization, and 1 was further observed. Other complications included 2 bilomas and 3 perihepatic abscesses (all drained percutaneously). Two small bowel injuries were initially missed (0.5%), and diagnosed 2 and 3 days after admission. Overall, 6 patients required operative intervention: 3 for hemorrhage, 2 for missed enteric injuries, and 1 for persistent sepsis after unsuccessful percutaneous drainage. Average length of stay was 13 days. Nonoperative management of blunt hepatic injuries is clearly the treatment modality of choice in hemodynamically stable patients, irrespective of grade of injury or degree of hemoperitoneum. Current data would suggest that 50 to 80% (47% in this series) of all adult patients with blunt hepatic injuries are candidates for this form of therapy. Exactly 98.5% of patients analyzed in this study successfully avoided operative intervention. Bleeding complications are infrequently encountered (3.5%) and can often be managed nonoperatively. Although grades IV and V injuries composed 14% of the series, they represented 66.6% of the patients requiring operative intervention and thus merit constant re-evaluation and close observation in critical care units. The optimal time for follow-up computerized axial tomography scanning seems to be within 7 to 10 days after injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


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