The experience of six referral trauma centers with 832 blunt splenic injuries was reviewed to determine the indications, methods, and outcome of nonoperative management. During this 5-year period, 112 splenic injuries were intentionally managed by observation. There were 40 (36%) patients less than 16 years old and 72 adults. The diagnosis was established by computed tomography in 89 (79%) patients, nuclear scan in 23 (21%), ultrasound in four (4%), and arteriography in two (2%). There were 28 Class I, 51 Class II, 31 Class III, two Class IV, and no Class V splenic injuries.
Nonoperative management was unsuccessful in one (2%) child and 12 (17%) adults (p < 0.05). Failure was due to ongoing hemorrhage inl2 patients and delayed recognition of pancreatic injury in one patient. Of the 12 patients ultimately requiring laparotomy for control of hemorrhage, seven (58%) were successfully treated with splenic salvage techniques. Overall mortality was 3%; none of the four deaths was due to splenic or associated abdominal injury.
This contemporary multicenter experience suggests that patients with Class I, II, or III splenic injuries after blunt trauma are candidates for nonoperative management if there is: 1) no hemodynamic instability after initial fluid resuscitation; 2) no serious associated abdominal organ injury; and 3) no extra-abdominal condition which precludes assessment of the abdomen. Strict adherence to these principles yielded initial nonoperative success in 98% of children and 83% of adults. Application of standard splenic salvage techniques to treat the patients with persistent hemorrhage resulted in ultimate splenic preservation in 100% of children and 93% of adults.