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Ann Surg. 1992 Nov;216(5):524-38.

Continuing evolution in the approach to severe liver trauma.

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Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Surgical and radiologic techniques from computed tomography (CT) scanning and embolization to temporary gauze packing and mesh hepatorrhaphy have been developed to make the management of severe liver injuries more effective. Surgical approaches for severe liver trauma have been oriented to two major consequences of these injuries: hemorrhage and infection. Early attempts at hemorrhagic control found benefit only in temporary intrahepatic gauze packing. The subsequent recognition of complications after liver injury blamed the practice of packing, which then remained unused for more than 30 years. Yet more aggressive attempts at controlling hemorrhage without temporary packing failed to improve results. Temporary perihepatic gauze packing therefore has been reintroduced, but this is probably an imperfect solution. Mesh hepatorrhaphy may control bleeding without many of the adverse effects of packing. Fourteen patients are reported with severe liver injuries who have undergone mesh hepatorrhaphy, bringing the current reported experience with mesh hepatorrhaphy to 24, with a combined mortality rate of 37.5%. Thus far, it appears that only juxtacaval injuries fail to have their hemorrhage controlled with mesh hepatorrhaphy, but many believe that these injuries may be controlled by perihepatic packing. Prophylactic drainage of severe liver injuries is a concept for which there is little evidence of benefit. Furthermore, recent radiologic developments appear capable of draining those collections that do occasionally develop in the postoperative period. The ultimate challenge of liver transplantation for trauma has been attempted, but the experience is thus far very limited.

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