Background: Although highly successful in children, nonoperative management of blunt splenic injury in adults is less defined. The purpose of this study was to determine whether mechanism of injury, grade of splenic injury, associated injuries, and pattern of injury differ between adults and children (younger than 15 years of age).
Methods: Four hundred eleven patients (293 adults and 118 pediatric patients) with blunt splenic injury were admitted to an affiliated adult/pediatric trauma program from 1989 to 1994. Computed tomography (CT) scans were interpreted in a blinded fashion. Mechanism of injury was significantly different for adults versus children (p < 0.05): motor vehicle crash (66.9% versus 23.7%), motorcycle (8.8% versus 0.8%), sports (2.4% versus 16.9%), falls (8.8% versus 25.4%), pedestrian/automobile (4.4% versus 11.0%), bicycle (1.4% versus 9.3%), and other (7.3% versus 12.7%).
Results: Higher injury severity scores, lower Glasgow Coma Scales, and higher mortality indicated that the adults were more severely injured than the children. Fifty-nine percent of the adults and 7% of the children required immediate laparotomy for splenic injury. Both CT grade and quantity of blood on CT predicted the need for exploration in adults but not in children. An injury severity score above 15 and high-energy mechanisms correlated with the need for operative intervention.
Conclusions: Rather than children simply being physically different, they are injured differently than adults, hence the high rate of nonoperative management.