Background: Most minor splenic injuries are readily treated nonoperatively but controversy exists regarding the role of nonoperative management for higher-grade injuries. The infrequency of these injuries has made evaluation of factors critical to their management difficult.
Methods: Through the National Trauma Data Bank, 3,085 adults sustaining severe (Abbreviated Injury Scale score > or = 4) blunt splenic injury from 1997 to 2003 were retrospectively reviewed. Patient management, demographic information, physiologic data, procedures performed, and outcomes were analyzed.
Results: Nonoperative management was attempted in 40.5% of patients but ultimately failed in 54.6% of those. Failure of nonoperative management was associated with increased age, low admission systolic blood pressure, higher injury severity score, and increased hospital and intensive care unit length of stay. Mortality associated with failure of nonoperative management (12.3%) and successful observation (13.8%) was similar.
Conclusions: Nonoperative management of higher-grade splenic injuries is associated with a high rate of failure and prolonged hospital stay. Careful judgment must be exercised in applying nonoperative management to patients with severe splenic injuries.