Introduction: Emergency operative intervention has been one of the cornerstones of the care of the injured patient. Over the past several years, nonoperative management has increasingly been recommended for the care of selected blunt abdominal solid organ injuries. The purpose of this study was to utilize a large statewide, population-based data set to perform a time- series analysis of the practice of physicians caring for blunt solid organ injury of the abdomen. The study was designed to assess the changing frequency and the outcomes of operative and nonoperative treatments for blunt hepatic and splenic injuries. Methods: Data were obtained from the state hospital discharge data base, which tracks information on all hospitalized patients from each of the 157 hospitals in the state of North Carolina. All trauma patients who had sustained injury to a solid abdominal organ (kidney, liver, or spleen) were selected for initial analysis. Results: During the 5 years of the study, 210,256 trauma patients were admitted to the state's hospitals (42,051 ± 7802 per year). The frequency of nonoperative interventions for hepatic and splenic injuries increased over the period studied. The frequency of nonoperative management of hepatic injuries increased from 55% in 1988 to 79% in 1992 in patients with hepatic injuries and from 34% to 46% in patients with splenic injuries. The rate of nonoperative management of hepatic injuries increased from 54% to 64% in nontrauma centers compared with an increase from 56% to 74% in trauma centers (p = 0.01). In patients with splenic injuries, the rate of nonoperative management increased from 35% to 44% in nontrauma centers compared with an increase from 33% to 49% in trauma centers (p < 0.05). The rate of nonoperative management was associated with the organ injury severity, ranging from 90% for minor injuries to 19%-40% for severe injuries. Finally, in an attempt to compare blood use in operatively and nonoperatively treated patients, the total charges for blood were compared in the two groups. When compared, based on organ injury severity, the total blood used, as measured by charges, was lower for nonoperatively treated patients. Conclusions: This large, statewide, population-based time series analysis shows that the management of blunt injury of solid abdominal organs has changed over time. The incidence of nonoperative management for both hepatic and splenic injuries has increased. The study indicates that the rates of nonoperative management vary in relation to the severity of the organ injury. The rates of increase in nonoperative management were greater in trauma centers than in nontrauma centers. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that this newer approach to the care of blunt injury of solid abdominal organs is being led by the state's trauma centers.
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