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Subcapsular hematoma in blunt splenic injury: A significant predictor of failure of nonoperative management

Lopez, Joseph Martin Jr. MD; McGonagill, Patrick W. MD; Gross, Jessica Lynn MD; Hoth, J. Jason MD; Chang, Michael C. MD; Parker, Karen RN; Requarth, Jay A. MD; Miller, Preston Roy MD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: December 2015 - Volume 79 - Issue 6 - p 957–960
doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000000854
WTA Plenary Papers

BACKGROUND In patients with blunt splenic injury (BSI), patient selection, angiography, and embolization have contributed to low nonoperative management (NOM) failure rates. Despite these advances, some patients will fail NOM. We noted that a significant proportion of NOM failures had subcapsular hematomas (SCHs) identified on imaging. We sought to determine if there is a correlation between SCH and higher risk of NOM failure after BSI.

METHODS Our institutional trauma registry was queried for all patients with BSI during a 2-year period. Charts were reviewed to determine grade, presence of SCH, and outcome of NOM. Under current institutional protocol, all stable patients with BSI Grades III to V and those with contrast blush on computed tomography are referred for angiography and embolization. Failure of NOM was declared if splenectomy was required for bleeding after an initial plan of nonoperation.

RESULTS From May 2012 to May 2014, 312 patients with BSI were identified. A total of 253 patients (81%) underwent NOM. Overall, 15 (5.9%) failed NOM. Of those undergoing NOM, 34 had SCH and 12 failed (35.3% vs. 1.5% without SCH, p = 0.0001). Failure rates in Grades 1 to 4 were 2.3%, 3.8%, 8.8%, and 19.2%, respectively. NOM failure rates in the subset with SCH for Grades I to IV were 20%, 25%, 30.8%, and 80%, respectively. These are significantly higher than patients without SCH in Grades II to IV (0%, p = 0.003; 2.3%, p = 0.008; and 4.8%, p = 0.016) and approach significance in Grade I (1.2%, p = 0.11). There were no SCHs and no failures of NOM in Grade V injuries.

CONCLUSION The NOM failure rate of BSI patients with SCH is significantly higher than those without SCH. Patients with BSI Grades I to III slated for NOM must be observed as the failure rate approaches 30%. Splenectomy should be considered in patients with Grade IV BSI with SCH, as NOM failure rate is 80%.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic study, level IV.

From the Wake Forest University School of Medicine (J.M.L., J.L.G., J.J.H., M.C.C., P.R.M.); and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (P.W.M., K.P., J.A.R.), Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Submitted: January 15, 2015; Revised: June 9, 2015; Accepted: August 3, 2015, Published online: October 19, 2015.

This study was presented at the 45th annual meeting of the Western Trauma Association, March 1–6, 2015, in Telluride, Colorado.

Address for reprints: Joseph Martin Lopez, Jr., MD, Medical Center Blvd, Winston-Salem, NC 27157; email:

© 2015 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.