Splenic artery embolization: Have we gone too far?

J Trauma. 2006 Sep;61(3):541-4; discussion 545-6. doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000235920.92385.2b.


Background: Splenic artery angioembolization (EMBO) has been promoted to increase the success rate of nonoperative management of splenic injuries. Our institutional clinical pathway calls for EMBO in the setting of ongoing splenic bleeding or contrast blush on computed tomography scan. We perceived a higher rate of failure than that reported in the literature. The purpose of this study was to review our experience with splenic EMBO to identify predictors of failure of nonoperative/EMBO management.

Methods: The trauma registry and interventional radiology database of a Level I trauma center were reviewed for patients with splenic injuries from January 2000 through June 2004. Charts and films of patients undergoing EMBO were reviewed.

Results: There were 221 patients admitted with blunt splenic injuries. Of these, 165 (75%) were selected for nonoperative management; 41 (25%) of them underwent splenic EMBO. Of the 41, 11 patients (27%) failed nonoperative/EMBO management. Of nine patients with low-grade injury (I, II) and small or no hemoperitoneum, none failed EMBO, whereas 10 of 23 (43%) with high-grade injury (III, IV, V) and moderate or large hemoperitoneum failed. EMBO was more likely to fail if extravasation was seen on angiography (59% vs. 4%). Coils (vs. particles) and main (vs. selective) artery EMBO were more often successful. Of EMBO patients who experienced transient hypotension, 57% required splenectomy.

Conclusions: EMBO may have salvaged many spleens, but splenectomy was required in 27% of EMBO patients. Patient selection is critical to successful management. Any hypotension in the face of a contrast blush probably warrants laparotomy. The combination of high grade injury and significant hemoperitoneum, or extravasation on angiogram, predict a high risk of failure and thus warrant a low threshold for splenectomy if bleeding persists. Technical EMBO considerations may impact success, but this requires further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography
  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Female
  • Hemoperitoneum / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spleen / injuries*
  • Splenic Artery* / diagnostic imaging
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Treatment Failure
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy