Selective management of penetrating neck injuries using "no zone" approach

Injury. 2015 Sep;46(9):1720-5. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2015.06.019. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Introduction: Selective management has been the standard management protocol in penetrating neck injuries (PNIs) since this approach has significantly reduced unnecessary neck exploration. The purpose of this study is to evaluate outcomes of selective management in PNIs using the "no zone" approach, in which the management is guided mainly by clinical signs and symptoms, not the location of the neck wounds.

Materials and methods: A retrospective study was performed in patients treated for PNIs at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital (KCMH) from January 2003 to December 2013. The patients with hard signs of neck injury (i.e., active bleeding, significant haematoma, massive subcutaneous emphysema, and air bubbling through the neck wound) underwent emergency neck exploration. The asymptomatic patients and the patients with soft signs (other symptoms) were considered to be candidates for selective management. Data collection included demographic data, emergency department parameters, details of neck injury, and outcomes in terms of mortality, negative exploration rate, and missed injury rate.

Results: Eighty-six PNI patients were treated at KCMH from 2003 to 2013, 64 of which sustained stab wounds, 12 gunshot wounds, 4 shotgun wounds, and 6 other causes. Thirty-six patients presenting with hard signs underwent immediate neck exploration and there were 2 negative explorations. Twenty-six patients with soft signs underwent selective investigations (including computed tomographic angiography in 21 patients), 5 patients required neck explorations due to positive results of the investigations with one negative exploration. All of the twenty-four asymptomatic patients were managed with close observation, none required subsequent neck exploration. There was no missed injury found in the present study. Successful non-operative management was carried out in 45 patients (52%). The overall negative exploration rate was 7% (3 in 41 patients undergoing neck exploration). Two patients with hard signs died from associated chest injuries (mortality rate 2%).

Conclusion: Selective management of penetrating neck injuries based on physical examination and selective use of investigations (no zone approach) is safe and simple with low negative exploration rate and no missed injury.

Keywords: No zone approach; Penetrating neck injuries; Selective management.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography
  • Neck Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Neck Injuries / mortality
  • Neck Injuries / therapy
  • Patient Selection
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thailand / epidemiology
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Penetrating / diagnosis*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / mortality
  • Wounds, Penetrating / therapy