The role of splenic angioembolization as an adjunct to nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Nonoperative management (NOM) of hemodynamically normal patients with blunt splenic injury (BSI) is the standard of care. Guidelines recommend additional splenic angioembolization (SAE) in patients with American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) Grade IV and Grade V BSI, but the role of SAE in Grade III injuries is unclear and controversial. The aim of this systematic review was to compare the safety and effectiveness of SAE as an adjunct to NOM versus NOM alone in adults with BSI.


A systematic literature search (Medline, Embase, and CINAHL) was performed to identify original studies that compared outcomes in adult BSI patients treated with SAE or NOM alone. Primary outcome was failure of NOM. Secondary outcomes included morbidity, mortality, hospital length of stay, and transfusion requirements. Bayesian meta-analyses were used to calculate an absolute (risk difference) and relative (risk ratio [RR]) measure of treatment effect for each outcome.


Twenty-three studies (6,684 patients) were included. For Grades I to V combined, there was no difference in NOM failure rate (SAE, 8.6% vs NOM, 7.7%; RR, 1.09 [0.80–1.51]; p = 0.28), mortality (SAE, 4.8% vs NOM, 5.8%; RR, 0.82 [0.45–1.31]; p = 0.81), hospital length of stay (11.3 vs 9.5 days; p = 0.06), or blood transfusion requirements (1.8 vs 1.7 units; p = 0.47) between patients treated with SAE and those treated with NOM alone. However, morbidity was significantly higher in patients treated with SAE (SAE, 38.1% vs NOM, 18.6%; RR, 1.83 [1.20–2.66]; p < 0.01). When stratified by grade of splenic injury, SAE significantly reduced the failure rate of NOM in patients with Grade IV and Grade V splenic injuries but had minimal effect in those with Grade I to Grade III injuries.


Splenic angioembolization should be strongly considered as an adjunct to NOM in patients with AAST Grade IV and Grade V BSI but should not be routinely recommended in patients with AAST Grade I to Grade III injuries.


Systematic review and meta-analysis, level III.

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