Diagnosis and Initial Management of Blunt Pancreatic Trauma: Guidelines From a Multiinstitutional Review

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The authors' objective was to resolve the current controversies surrounding the diagnosis and management of blunt pancreatic trauma (BPT).

Summary Background Data

The diagnosis of BPT is notoriously difficult: serum amylase has been claimed to be neither sensitive nor specific, and recent anecdotal reports have suggested a role for computed tomography. The therapy of BPT has been controversial, with some suggesting selective observation and others advocating immediate exploration to prevent a delay-induced escalation in morbidity and death.


The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of documented BPT from six institutions, using a standardized binary data form composed of 187 items and 237 data fields.


A significant correlation between pancreas-specific morbidity and injury to the main pancreatic duct (MPD) was noted. Patients requiring delayed surgical intervention after an unsuccessful period of observation demonstrated notably higher pancreas-specific mortality and morbidity rates, principally because of the incidence of unrecognized injuries to the MPD. Although detection of MPD injuries by computed tomography was no better than flipping a coin, endoscopic pancreatography was accurate in each of the five cases in which it was used.


The principal cause of pancreas-specific morbidity after BPT is injury to the MPD. Parenchymal pancreatic injuries not involving the ductal system rarely result in pancreas-specific morbidity or death. Delay in recognizing MPD injury leads to increased mortality and morbidity rates. CT is unreliable in diagnosing MPD injury and should not be used to guide therapy. Initial selection of patients with isolated BPT for observation or surgery can be based on the determination of MPD integrity.

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