Isolated low-grade solid organ injuries in children following blunt abdominal trauma: Is it time to consider discharge from the emergency department?

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2020 Nov;89(5):887-893. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002899.


Introduction: Acute intervention (AI) for solid organ injury (SOI) is rare in hemodynamically stable children. Pediatric guidelines recommend admission with follow-up laboratories, even for low-grade injuries.

Methods: Data sets from two large multicenter prospective observational studies were used to analyze a cohort of children (age, <17 years) with grade I to III SOI following blunt abdominal trauma. Children with hollow viscus injuries were excluded. Patients were divided into (a) those with or without other major injuries (OMIs) (traumatic brain injury, hemothorax or pneumothorax, pelvic fracture, urgent orthopedic or neurosurgical operations) and (b) with grade I or II versus grade III injuries. Outcomes included AIs (transfusion, angiography, abdominal operation) and disposition (admission unit and length of stay).

Results: There were 14,232 children enrolled in the two studies, and 791 patients had a SOI (5.6%). After excluding patients with hollow viscus injuries and higher-grade SOIs, 517 patients with a grade I to III SOI were included, and 262 of these had no OMI. Among patients with no OMI, none of 148 patients with grade I or II SOI underwent AI, while only 3 of 114 patients with grade III injuries underwent AI (3 transfusions/1 angioembolization). All three had hemoperitoneum; two of three had an additional organ with a grade II injury. Among grade I and II SOIs with no OMI, 28 (18.9%) of 148 were admitted to an intensive care unit, 110 (74.3%) of 148 to floor, and 7 (4.7%) of 148 discharged home from emergency department; median length of stay 2 days. Among grade III SOIs with no OMI, 38 (33.3%) of 114 were admitted to an intensive care unit and 61.4% to the floor; median length of stay was 4 days. Among 255 patients with a grade I to III SOI and other major organ system injuries, 31 (12.2%) underwent AI.

Conclusion: No patient with a grade I and II SOI and no OMI following blunt abdominal trauma received intervention, suggesting that patients with low-grade SOI without OMIs could be safely observed and discharged from the emergency department.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic study, level IV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnosis
  • Abdominal Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Abdominal Injuries / etiology
  • Abdominal Injuries / therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Treatment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Patient Discharge / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnosis