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J Trauma. 2005 Nov;59(5):1066-71.

Complications of nonoperative management of high-grade blunt hepatic injuries.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Texas-Houston, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Nonoperative management of blunt hepatic injuries is highly successful. Complications associated with high-grade injuries, however, have not been well characterized. The purpose of the present study was therefore to define hepatic-related complications and associated treatment modalities in patients undergoing nonoperative management of high-grade blunt hepatic injuries.


Three hundred thirty-seven patients from two regional Level I trauma centers with grade 3 to 5 blunt hepatic injuries during a 40-month period were reviewed. Complications and treatment of hepatic-related complications in patients not requiring laparotomy in the first 24 hours were identified.


Of 337 patients with a grade 3 to 5 injury, 230 (68%) were managed nonoperatively. There were 37 hepatic-related complications in 25 patients (11%); 63% (5 of 8) of patients with grade 5 injuries developed complications, 21% (19 of 92) of patients with grade 4 injuries, but only 1% (1 of 130) of patients with grade 3 injuries. Complications included bleeding in 13 patients managed by angioembolization (n = 12) and laparotomy (n = 1), liver abscesses in 2 patients managed with computed tomography-guided drainage (n = 2) and subsequent laparotomy (n = 1). In one patient with bleeding, hepatic necrosis followed surgical ligation of the right hepatic artery and required delayed hepatic lobectomy. Sixteen biliary complications were managed with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and stenting (n = 7), drainage (n = 5), and laparoscopy (n = 4). Three patients had suspected abdominal sepsis and underwent a negative laparotomy, whereas an additional three patients underwent laparotomy for abdominal compartment syndrome.


Nonoperative management of high-grade liver injuries can be safely accomplished. Mortality is low; however, complications in grade 4 and 5 injuries should be anticipated and may require a combination of operative and nonoperative management strategies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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