Is the Grading of Liver Injuries a Useful Clinical Tool in the Initial Management of Blunt Trauma Patients?

Helling, Thomas; Ward, Michael; Balon, Jennifer
April 2009
European Journal of Trauma & Emergency Surgery;Apr2009, Vol. 35 Issue 2, p95
Academic Journal
Computed tomography (CT) has become the preferred method for evaluation of the abdomen for victims of blunt trauma. Grading of liver injuries, primarily by CT, has been advocated as a measure of severity and, by implication, the likelihood for intervention or complications. We have sought to determine if grading of liver injuries, as a clinical tool, affects immediate or extended management of patients. We have retrospectively reviewed all patients sustaining blunt liver injuries as diagnosed by CT over a five-year period at a Level I trauma center to determine if grading of injury influenced management. The AAST organ scaling system was utilized (major grade 4–5, minor grade 1–3), as well as the ISS, AIS, mortality, morbidity, and treatment. There were 133 patients available for review. The patients were grouped into major (n = 20) and minor (n = 113) liver injuries and operative (n = 12) and nonoperative (n = 121) management. Major liver injuries had a higher ISS (39 + 13 vs. 27 + 15, p = 0.001) and were more likely to require operative intervention (5/20 vs. 7/113, p = 0.02). Mortality in this group was not different (major vs. minor), and there were no differences in the incidence of complications. Twelve patients (9%) required operation, all for hemodynamic instability, all within 24 h, and 11/12 within 6 h. At operation 8/12 patients had other sources of bleeding beside the liver injury, and 7/12 had minor hepatic injuries. The operative patients had higher ISS and AIS scores (head/neck, chest, abdomen, extremities) than those managed nonoperatively. More patients died in the operative group (6/12 vs. 8/121, p = 0.0003). There were more pulmonary (6/12 vs. 16/121, p = 0.005), cardiovascular (6/12 vs. 19/121, p = 0.01), and infectious (5/12 vs. 20/121, p = 0.049) complications in the operative group. There were 14 deaths overall; 13/14 were due to traumatic brain injury, and 8/14 required urgent operation for hemorrhage. In conclusion, grading of liver injuries does not seem to influence immediate management. Physiologic behavior dictated management and need for operative intervention, as well as prognosis. However, both major hepatic injuries and need for early operation reflected overall severity and the possibility of associated injuries.


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