Category Archives: Abdomen

Best Of AAST #3: Nonoperative Pancreatic Injury Management In Children

Over the years, the operative vs nonoperative management pendulum has swung to and fro. For solid organ injuries, operative management was routine until about 30 years ago. Since then, it has moved to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Similar swings have occurred in pediatric trauma management as well. Most notably it now involves that most dreaded of organs, the pancreas. In adults, this remains a problem for the operating room. But for the past 6-8 years, pediatric trauma surgeons have been dabbling with “conservative” management of pancreatic injuries.

The group at Baylor designed a prospective, multicenter study of seven pediatric trauma centers over a 2 year period. They specifically reviewed children with pancreatic injury with duct disruption (grade III). The injuries needed to be reasonably “fresh” (48 hours). They managed these children with a “Less is More” practice guideline that included early oral feeding, limited imaging and labs, and discharge based on improved symptoms. They compared their results to a previous multicenter trial performed 3-5 years earlier, before guideline implementation.

Here are the factoids:

  • There were 11 patients enrolled (!!) with a median age of 7 years
  • Clear liquids were started an average of 3.5 days postop, and a low fat diet at 6.7 days. Three patients (27%) failed to advance, requiring TPN.
  • ERCP stent was placed in 3 patients (27%)
  • Mean length of stay was 10 days
  • The authors pointed out that these numbers were all better than their published study prior to the “Less is More” guideline

Here are my comments: Unfortunately, I remember back to the days when any pancreatic injury with a duct injury, adult or child, went to surgery. For the usual, run of the mill tail transections from a handlebar injury, a quick tail resection was in order. The kids did well and were generally out of the hospital quickly (3-5 days) with few complications. I’ve operated on a handful of them, and this has been my (anecdotal) experience as well.

My concern is that, in this study, less (defined as nonop management) leads to more time to full diet, more collections and pseudocysts, and more time in the hospital.

In order to determine this, we need to know exactly how injured these 11 children were, details of their pancreatic injury, and a great deal about the data from the earlier study.  And I would be very surprised if there is sufficient statistical power to show a true difference based on only 11 patients.

Here are my questions for the authors and presenter:

  • Could some of the observed differences be due to varying grades of pancreatic injury? The abstract does not divide the kids by grade, so it is possible that some are grade III, some IV, and some are V. This makes it very difficult to tease reliable conclusions from this very small number of subjects (11).
  • Did they have other injuries as well that may have contributed to their slow recovery?
  • Have you compared your results to older research that analyzed these same variables for pediatric patients who were treated with pancreatic resection + drainage? Be prepared to compare your data to older studies, as well as to explain the details of your own historical study cited in the abstract.
  • It seems that trauma surgeons are becoming more reluctant to operate on kids. But for this injury, is that wise? Yes, the kid ends up with a scar on his abdomen. And may be missing his spleen. But what is the emotional trauma from having a tube stuck in your nose, a drain stuck in your side, or spending two weeks in the hospital? And maybe coming back for more touch-ups? Is this really better then a short one-time stay in the hospital.

There will be a lot of interest in your paper at the meeting. I can’t wait to hear you present it live!

Reference: Outcomes of standardized non-operative management of high-grade pnacreatic trauma in chilren: a study from the Pediatric Trauma Society Pancreatic Trauma Study Group. AAST 2020 Oral Abstract #6.

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Best Of AAST #2: REBOA And Unstable Pelvic Fractures

REBOA is the new kid on the block. Human papers first started appearing in the trauma resuscitation literature about six years ago. Since then, we’ve been refining the details: how to use it, who to use it in, as well as a lot of the technical tidbits.

The group at Denver Health Medical Center compared their experience with pelvic packing vs REBOA for patients with unstable pelvic fractures. They reviewed four years of experience to see if they could further clarify some of the benefits of this technique.

Here are the factoids:

  • A total of 652 patients presented with pelvic fractures, and 78 underwent pelvic packing for control of hemorrhage
  • Of these 78 patients, 31 also had a REBOA catheter placed and 47 did not
  • The ISS in the REBOA+ group was significantly higher at 49 vs 40
  • Although systolic blood pressure and heart rate were statistically more abnormal in the REBOA+ group, these values were not clinically different (SBP 65 vs 72, HR 129 vs 117)
  • The amount of transfused red cells and plasma was twice as high in the REBOA+ patients (RBC 16 vs 7, FFP 9 vs 4)
  • There was no difference in survival rate (REBOA 84% vs packing 87%)

The authors concluded that this study suggests REBOA plus pelvic packing provides life-saving hemorrhage control in otherwise devastating injuries.

Here are my comments:  So the authors inserted REBOA catheters in addition to pelvic packing in half of their patients that were more severely injured, gave them twice as much blood product, and had the same number of survivors. But the primary outcome was the same. It’s very difficult to tease out which factors are responsible when there are such significant differences between the groups with respect to factors that have a definite impact on survival.

Did the use of REBOA equalize survival in the more severely injured patients, or was it the additional blood products, both, or neither? It’s really not possible to say. REBOA may be a valuable adjunct to trauma resuscitation, but we still need more information so we can be sure we are using it in the right patients.

And some questions for the authors:

  • How did you select patients for REBOA? This could make a big difference and inject significant selection bias. Could your surgeons have been primed to use this in patients who looked sicker?
  • Have you considered matching subsets of your patient groups with similar ISS and transfusion volumes, and then comparing mortality? This could be revealing, but I suspect the numbers will be too small to have the statistical power to show any differences.

This will be a very interesting paper to listen to! I look forward to more details.

Reference: Inflate and pack! Pelvic packing combined with REBOA deployment prevents hemorrhage related deaths in unstable pelvic fractures. AAST 2020 Oral Abstract #4.

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The Peri-Mortem C-Section

The perimortem C-section (PMCS) is a heroic procedure designed to salvage a viable fetus from a moribund mother. Interestingly, in some mothers, delivery of the fetus results in return of spontaneous circulation.

The traditional teaching is that PMCS should be started within 4-5 minutes of the mother’s circulatory arrest. The longer it is delayed, the (much) lower the likelihood that the fetus will survive.

The reality is that it takes several minutes to prepare for this procedure because it is done so infrequently in most trauma centers. Recent literature suggests the following management for pregnant patients in blunt traumatic arrest (BTA):

  • Cover the usual BTA bases, including securing the airway, obtaining access and rapidly infusing crystalloid, decompressing both sides of the chest, and assessing for an unstable pelvis
  • Assess for fetal viability. The fundus must measure at least 23 cm.
  • Assess for a shockable vs non-shockable rhythm. If shockable, do two cycles of CPR before beginning the PMCS. If non-shockable, move straight to this procedure.

Bottom line: Any time you receive a pregnant patient in blunt arrest, have someone open the C-section pack while you assess and try to improve the mother’s viability. As soon as you complete the three tasks above, start the procedure! You don’t need to wait 4 minutes! And by the way, this is usually a procedure for surgeons only. They have the speed and skills to get to the right organs quickly. If unavailable, do what you need to do but recognize that the outcome may be even worse than it usually is.

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Video: Minimally Invasive Repair Of Rectal Injuries

Extraperitoneal rectal injury repair has evolved considerably over the past 40 years. Way back when, this injury automatically triggered exploration, diverting colostomy with washout of the distal colon, and presacral drain insertion (remember those?).

We eventually backed off on the presacral drains (pun intended), which didn’t make a lot of sense anyway. And we gave up on dissecting down deep into the pelvis to approach the injury. This only served to contaminate an otherwise pristine peritoneal cavity. Ditto for the distal rectal washout. So we have been performing a diverting colostomy as the primary method of treatment for years.

A Brief Report in the British Medical Journal Open shows us what may very well be the next stage in treating these injuries. Whereas they were previously left to heal on their own followed by colostomy closure after a few months, these authors from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto are promoting a minimally invasive approach to definitive management.

They detail two cases, one an impalement by a steel rod through the rectum and bladder, and one stab to the buttock. The authors dealt with the non-rectal injuries using conventional techniques. The rectal injuries were repaired using trans-anal minimally invasive surgery (TAMIS). Both were discharged without complications.

Here is a link to the video of the technique used in the stab victim:

Click here for video

Bottom line: It’s about time! As long as there is not a destructive injury to the extraperitoneal rectum, this seems like a great technique to try. It may very well eliminate the need for a diverting colostomy.

But remember, this is only a case report. We don’t know about antibiotic duration, followup imaging, longer term complications, or anything really. A larger series of cases is warranted to provide these answers. This will take some time due to the low frequency of this injury. So if you try it, build your own series and publish it so we all can learn!

Reference: Minimally invasive approach to low-velocity penetrating  extraperitoneal rectal trauma. BMJ Open 5(1) epub 5/12/2020.

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Activity Guidelines After Solid Organ Injury: How Important Are They?

Just about every practice guideline out there regarding liver and spleen injury has some type of physical activity guidelines associated with it. The accepted dogma is that moving around too much, or climbing stairs, or lifting objects, or getting tackled while playing rugby could exacerbate the injury and lead to complications or surgery.

But is it true? Activity restrictions after solid organ injury have been around longer than I have been a trauma surgeon. And the more people I poll on what they do, the more and very different answers I get. And there are no decent papers published that look critically at this question. Until now. 

A pediatric multi-center study of study on adherence to activity restrictions was published last year. Ten Level I pediatric trauma centers in the US tabulated their experience with solid organ injuries over a 3.75 year period fro 2013 to 2016. Only patients with successful nonoperative management of their injury were included, and those with high grade renal or pancreatic injuries were excluded.

Since this was a pediatric study, the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) practice guideline was followed (activity restriction = organ injury grade + 2 weeks). Activity restrictions included all sports, any recreational activity with wheels, or any activity that involved having both feet off the ground. Patients with Grade III-V injuries were seen at an office visit after 2 weeks, and lower grade injuries had a phone followup.

Adherence to guidelines was assessed by a followup phone call two months after injury. Clinical outcomes assessed at 60 days included unplanned return to the emergency department (ED), re-admission, complications, and development of new bleeding confirmed by surgery, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) at 60 days post injury.

Here are the factoids:

  • Of the 1007 patients in the study, some 56% were either excluded (178) or lost to followup (463)
  • Of the remaining 366, roughly 46% had a liver injury, 44% spleen, and the remaining 10% had both
  • Median age was 10, so this was actually a younger population
  • 76% of patients claimed they abided by the guidelines, 14% said they did not, and 10% “didn’t know.” This means they probably did not.
  • For the 279 patients who said they adhered to activity restrictions 13% returned to the ED and half were admitted to the hospital
  • Of the 49 patients who admitted they did not follow the guidelines, 8% returned to the ED at some point and none were readmitted
  • The most common reasons for return to ED were abdominal pain, anorexia, fatigue, dizziness, and shoulder pain
  • There were no delayed operations in either of the groups

Bottom line: There were no significant differences between the compliant and noncompliant groups. Unfortunately, the authors did not include an analysis of the “I don’t know if I complied” group, which would have been interesting. But there is one issue I always worry about in these low-number-of-subjects studies that don’t show a significant difference between groups. Did they have the statistical power to show such a difference? If not, then we still don’t know the answer. And unfortunately, I’m not able to guess the numbers well enough to do the power calculation for this study.

I am still intrigued by this study! Our group originally had a fixed time period (6 weeks) of limited activity in our practice guideline for pediatric solid organ injury patients. This was rescinded last year based on our experience of no delayed complications and guidance from our sister pediatric trauma center at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. We are also moving toward making a similar change on our adult practice guideline.

Too many centers wait too long to make changes in their practice guidelines. They bide their time waiting for new, published research that they can lean on for their changes. Unfortunately, I think they will be waiting for a long time because many of our questions are not interesting enough for acceptance by the usual journals. Rely on the expertise and experience of your colleagues and then make those changes. Be sure to follow with your performance improvement program to make sure that they actually do work as well as you think!

Reference: Adherence to APSA activity restriction guidelines and 60-day clinical outcomes for pediatric blunt liver and splenic injuries (BLSI). J Ped Surg 54:335-339, 2019.

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