Conservative management of splenic trauma: history and current trends

Pediatr Surg Int. 2003 Nov;19(9-10):617-27. doi: 10.1007/s00383-003-0972-y. Epub 2003 Nov 12.


Evolution of the present-day policy of conservative management of ruptured spleen has been hailed as one of the most notable advances in pediatric surgery. Until 1971, routine splenectomy used to be the sacrosanct treatment for splenic trauma. It was universally believed that non-operative management carried a high mortality of 90 to 100%. Sporadic reports of successful conservative treatment appeared in the early twentieth century, but regrettably, these were ignored. Likewise, experimental studies pointing to the danger of post-splenectomy sepsis were also disregarded. Dominant surgical opinion continued to practice removal of the injured spleen. In 1968, Upadhyaya and Simpson, based on a well-designed clinical analysis of 52 children made a convincing plea for conservative management. In 1971, Upadhyaya et al. presented results of a corroborative experimental study, which provided the conclusive evidence that isolated splenic tears are well tolerated and heal spontaneously by first intention. Seeing the surge of publications that followed this presentation, it becomes apparent that this study constituted the real turning point that changed the world opinion in favour of salvage of the ruptured spleen. By 1979, numerous authors had reported the safety of non-operative management in hundreds of children all over the world. Currently, the policy of routine splenectomy has been universally abandoned; and the reported salvage rate of ruptured spleen is more than 90%. This paper traces the historical perspectives in the management of injured spleen from the times of Aristotle to the present day.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods
  • General Surgery / history*
  • Hemostasis, Surgical / methods
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Sepsis / prevention & control
  • Spleen / injuries
  • Spleen / surgery
  • Splenectomy / adverse effects
  • Splenectomy / history*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / methods
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy