Background: Major vessel injury is seen in 5% to 25% of patients admitted to hospitals with abdominal trauma, and this is the most common cause of death in these patients.
Methods: Data on 470 patients with abdominal vascular injuries seen at a Level I trauma center were reviewed retrospectively.
Results: The overall mortality rate was 45%. The incidence of various types of trauma were blunt in 51 patients (11%), gunshot wounds in 329 patients (70%), shotgun wounds in 21 patients (4%), and stab wounds in 69 patients (15%). The three vessels with the highest mortality rates were aorta (at and proximal to the renals) (32 of 35 [91%]), hepatic veins and/or retrohepatic vena cava (36 of 41 [88%]), and portal vein (25 of 36 [69%]). The most significant risk factors (p < 0.001) for death were a trauma score of 9 or less, initial operating room (OR) systolic blood pressure (SBP) < 90 mm Hg, final OR core temperature < 34 degrees C, 10 or more blood transfusions in the first 24 hours, and an initial emergency department SBP < 70 mm Hg. Of 120 patients with an initial OR SBP < 70 mm Hg, 103 (86%) died. Of 29 patients with a good response to a prelaparotomy thoracotomy with thoracic aortic cross-clamping (SBP > 90 mm Hg within 5 minutes), 11 (38%) survived. Of the remaining 87 patients, only 6 (7%) survived (p = 0.01).
Conclusion: Rapid control of bleeding sites (to keep blood transfusions to < 10 units) and urgent correction of hypothermia seem to be the main factors improving survival over which the surgeon has some control.