Background: Despite the liver being one of the most frequently injured abdominal organs in trauma patients, clinical management strategies differ between trauma surgeons. Few studies have critically evaluated current practice patterns in the operative management of liver trauma. Historical studies recommended against the use of drains but there has not been a modern investigation of this issue. The objective of this study was to analyze outcomes associated with intra-operative drain use for liver trauma. Methods: A retrospective chart review of all adult trauma patients presenting to a Level I trauma center from 2012 to 2018 was performed. Patients who underwent operative management of liver trauma were divided into groups based on whether an intra-abdominal drain was utilized and differences in outcomes between the groups were analyzed. The primary endpoint evaluated was post-operative intra-abdominal abscesses. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed. Results: 184 patients with operative management of liver trauma were included in the study. Closed suction drains were utilized in 26.1% of post-operative patients. Rate of intra-abdominal abscesses was significantly higher in the drain group (35.4% versus 8.8%, P < 0.001). Drains were more commonly used in patients receiving more units of PRBCs (median, 9 units [IQR 4-20] versus median 5.5 units, [IQR 2-14], P = 0.03). Drain use was found to be an independent risk factor for post-operative intra-abdominal abscess on multivariate analysis (OR 4.9, 95% CI 1.7-14, P = 0.003). Conclusions: The results of this study support previous conclusions that drain placement for operative liver trauma is associated with increased risks of infectious complications. Drains were used in patients with more severe liver injury, intra-operative bile leaks, penetrating trauma, and increased blood transfusion requirements. Future studies should focus on the development of specific guidelines for the use of drains in liver trauma.
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