Objectives: The aims of this study were to determine if angiographic findings can be used to predict successful nonoperative therapy of splenic injury and to determine if coil embolization of the proximal splenic artery provides effective hemostasis.
Methods: Splenic injuries detected by diagnostic imaging between 1981 and 1993 at a level I trauma center were prospectively collected and retrospectively reviewed after management by protocol that used diagnostic peritoneal lavage, computed tomography (CT), angiography, transcatheter embolization, and laparotomy. Computed tomography was performed initially or after positive diagnostic peritoneal lavage. Angiography was performed urgently in stabilized patients with CT-diagnosed splenic injuries. Patients without angiographic extravasation were treated by bed rest alone; those with angiographic extravasation underwent coil embolization of the proximal splenic artery followed by bed rest.
Results: Patients (172) with blunt splenic injury are the subject of this study. Twenty-two patients were initially managed operatively because of associated injuries or disease (11 patients) or because the surgeon was unwilling to attempt nonoperative therapy (11 patients) and underwent splenectomy (17 patients) or splenorrhaphy (5 patients). One hundred fifty of 172 consecutive patients (87%) with CT-diagnosed splenic injury were stable enough to be considered for nonoperative management. Eighty-seven of the 90 patients managed by bed rest alone, and 56 of 60 patients treated by splenic artery occlusion and bed rest had a successful outcome. Overall splenic salvage was 88%. It was 97% among those managed nonoperatively, including 61 grade III and grade IV splenic injuries. Sixty percent of patients received no blood transfusions. Three of 150 patients treated nonoperatively underwent delayed splenectomy for infarction (one patient) or splenic infection (two patients).
Conclusions: (1) Hemodynamically stable patients with splenic injuries of all grades and no other indications for laparotomy can often be managed nonoperatively, especially when the injury is further characterized by arteriography. (2) The absence of contrast extravasation on splenic arteriography seems to be a reliable predictor of successful nonoperative management. We suggest its use to triage CT-diagnosed splenic injuries to bed rest or intervention. (3) Coil embolization of the proximal splenic artery is an effective method of hemostasis in stabilized patients with splenic injury. It expands the number of patients who can be managed nonoperatively.