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J Trauma. 2007 Jan;62(1):216-20.

Outcomes of management in stable children with intra-abdominal free fluid without solid organ injury after blunt abdominal injury.

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Division of Traumatology/Surgical Critical Care, St Luke's Hospital, Bethlehem, PA, USA.



The optimal management of hemodynamically stable children without solid-organ injury and with intra-abdominal free fluid on computed tomographic (CT) scan is highly debatable. The possibility of hollow viscus injury in this setting has led many to propose mandatory exploration. We think that stable children with intra-abdominal fluid without solid organ injury can be managed nonoperatively.


The charts of all children less than 18 years of age who had an abdominopelvic CT scan after a blunt abdominal trauma between January 2001 and July 2004 were queried. Patient demographics, mechanism of injury, vital signs, physical examination, laboratory data, CT findings, and outcomes of management were reviewed.


There were 37 pediatric patients identified during the study period who met the selection criteria. Twenty were boys and 17 were girls. Thirty-one patients had a small amount of fluid and six had a moderate amount of fluid. The most common mechanism of injury was motor vehicle crash (MVC). Thirty-one patients were successfully managed nonoperatively. Six patients received an exploratory laparotomy. Intraoperative findings included mesenteric injuries with or without ischemic bowel. There were no cases of hollow viscus perforation.


Nonoperative management of stable patients with small amounts of free fluid in the absence of significant abdominal findings is appropriate in the pediatric population. Increasing amounts of tenderness elicited on physical examination correlates well with the presence of more than a small amount of fluid. The presence of seat belt sign and more than a small amount of fluid may be associated with an increased likelihood of operative intervention.

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