Failures of splenic nonoperative management: is the glass half empty or half full?

J Trauma. 2001 Feb;50(2):230-6. doi: 10.1097/00005373-200102000-00007.


Background: Published contraindications to nonoperative management (NOM) of blunt splenic injury (BSI) include age > or = 55, Glasgow Coma Scale score < or = 13, admission blood pressure < 100 mm Hg, major (grades 3-5) injuries, and large amounts of hemoperitoneum. Recently reported NOM rates approximate 60%, with failure rates of 10% to 15%. This study evaluated our failures of NOM for BSI relative to these clinical factors.

Methods: All patients with BSI at a Level I trauma center over a 46-month period ending September 1999 were reviewed. Failures of NOM included patients initially selected for NOM who subsequently required splenectomy/splenorrhaphy.

Results: Five hundred fifty-eight had BSI. Twenty-three percent (128) underwent emergent laparotomy for hemodynamic instability and 77% (430) were observed. The NOM failure rate was only 8%. Univariate analysis identified moderate to large hemoperitoneum (p < 0.03), grades 3 to 5 (p < 0.004), and age > or = 55 (p < 0.0006) as being significantly associated with failure. Multivariate analysis identified age > or = 55 and grades 3 to 5 injuries as independent predictors of failure. The highest failure rates (30-40%) occurred in patients age > or = 55 with major injury for moderate to large hemoperitoneum. Mortality rates for successful NOM were 12%, and 9% for failed NOM.

Conclusion: Inclusion of all high-risk patients increased the NOM rate while maintaining a low failure rate. Although age > or = 55 and major BSI were independently associated with failure of NOM, approximately 80% of these high-risk patients were successfully managed nonoperatively. There was no increased mortality associated with failure. Although these factors may indeed predict failure, they do not necessarily contraindicate NOM.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hemoperitoneum / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spleen / injuries*
  • Treatment Failure
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / therapy*