March 1996

Computed Tomography in Blunt Hepatic Trauma

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Surgery (Drs Davis and Cioffi) and Radiology (Dr Brody), Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, RI.

Arch Surg. 1996;131(3):255-260. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430150033005

Background:  Nonoperative management of blunt hepatic injury in hemodynamically stable trauma patients is now common. Recently, it has been proposed that the finding of hepatic periportal tracking (PPT) of blood on the initial computed tomographic (CT) scan is a sensitive marker of significant hepatic and subhepatic injury that might militate against nonoperative management. While CT scan is useful in diagnosing the injury, the utility of follow-up CT scans has not been elucidated.

Design:  Retrospective chart review.

Setting:  Regional trauma center.

Patients:  The records of 58 hemodynamically stable patients with blunt hepatic trauma were reviewed and the following data recorded: age, outcome, Injury Severity Score (ISS), operative intervention, and complications. Computed tomographic scans were taken on admission and reviewed for the presence of PPT. The timing and radiographic appearance of follow-up CT scans was also recorded.

Results:  Seventeen patients (29%) had radiographic evidence of PPT while 41 patients (71%) did not. Age, ISS, injury grade, overall success rate of nonoperative management, and incidence of complications were not statistically significant between the two groups. In no instance did a routine follow-up CT scan affect subsequent management of the patient.

Conclusions:  The finding of PPT on the admission CT scan is not clinically significant and does not preclude nonoperative management of patients with blunt hepatic injury. Furthermore, routine follow-up CT scans are not indicated, as treatment is not influenced by their results. Rather, follow-up CT scans should be obtained as dictated by the patient's clinical course. Extrapolation of these findings to all patients with blunt hepatic trauma in the United States would result in considerable savings of health care dollars, without negatively affecting patient care.(Arch Surg. 1996;131:255-260)