Background: During the last century, the management of blunt force trauma to the spleen has changed from observation and expectant management in the early part of the 1900s to mainly operative intervention, to the current practice of selective operative and nonoperative management. These issues were first addressed by the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) in the Practice Management Guidelines for Non-operative Management of Blunt Injury to the Liver and Spleen published online in 2003. Since that time, a large volume of literature on these topics has been published requiring a reevaluation of the current EAST guideline.
Methods: The National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health MEDLINE database was searched using Pub Med (www.pubmed.gov). The search was designed to identify English-language citations published after 1996 (the last year included in the previous guideline) using the keywords splenic injury and blunt abdominal trauma.
Results: One hundred seventy-six articles were reviewed, of which 125 were used to create the current practice management guideline for the selective nonoperative management of blunt splenic injury.
Conclusion: There has been a plethora of literature regarding nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries published since the original EAST practice management guideline was written. Nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries is now the treatment modality of choice in hemodynamically stable patients, irrespective of the grade of injury, patient age, or the presence of associated injuries. Its use is associated with a low overall morbidity and mortality when applied to an appropriate patient population. Nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries should only be considered in an environment that provides capabilities for monitoring, serial clinical evaluations, and has an operating room available for urgent laparotomy. Patients presenting with hemodynamic instability and peritonitis still warrant emergent operative intervention. Intravenous contrast enhanced computed tomographic scan is the diagnostic modality of choice for evaluating blunt splenic injuries. Repeat imaging should be guided by a patient's clinical status. Adjunctive therapies like angiography with embolization are increasingly important adjuncts to nonoperative management of splenic injuries. Despite the explosion of literature on this topic, many questions regarding nonoperative management of blunt splenic injuries remain without conclusive answers in the literature.