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Surg Clin North Am. 2001 Dec;81(6):1431-47.

Injuries of the inferior vena cava.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA.


Injuries of the IVC, whether caused by blunt or penetrating mechanisms, are usually fatal. Patients who arrive in shock and fail to respond to initial resuscitative measures, those who are still actively bleeding at the time of laparotomy, and those with wounds of the retrohepatic vena cava have a low probability of survival. Death most commonly is caused by intraoperative exsanguination. Knowledge of the anatomy and exposure techniques for the five different segments of the intra-abdominal vena cava is very important to trauma surgeons. Although some wounds of the vena cava, especially those of the retrohepatic vena cava, are best left unexplored, most injuries inferior to this level can be exposed and repaired by lateral suture technique. Preservation of a lumen of at least 25% of normal is probably important in the suprarenal vena cava but is of no provable value inferior to the renal veins. No evidence supports the need to expose and repair vena caval wounds that have spontaneously stopped bleeding. Such wounds, especially in the retrohepatic area, may be managed expectantly provided that there is no strong suspicion of an associated injury to a major artery or hollow viscus.

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