Tag Archives: blunt trauma

Trauma 20 Years Ago: Blunt Aortic Injury in Children

We always worry about the aorta after high-energy blunt trauma in adults. Should we be doing the same in kids? After all, they are very elastic and for the most part they are tough to break.

A 13 year review was undertaken by the CV surgeons at Harborview twenty years ago which tried to answer this question. They looked at medical examiner records of all pediatric deaths (16 or younger) and identified the ones with traumatic aortic injury. They found only 12 deaths (2.1%), and somehow they also tracked one survivor (from ME data???). The age range was 3-15, with a mean of 12 (which means that the majority were in the older age group).

Six children were pedestrian struck, 5 were involved in car crashes, and two were on motorized bikes or ATVs. None of the children in car crashes were restrained and two were ejected. Four of the five were traveling > 55mph. All had other serious injuries, including abdominal and orthopedic.

It’s tough to draw any meaningful conclusions from this paper due to the small numbers, the retrospective design, and the lack of a denominator. The only thing it does tell us is that aortic injury is bad, and that kids should not get hit by cars and should wear their seat belts. The mean age suggests that it involves primarily older children. But we kind of knew all that already.

What it does not help with is figuring out at what age we need to start thinking about imaging the aorta with CT scan. I’ll be digging into that a little more this week.

Reference: Eddy et al. The epidemiology of traumatic rupture of the aorta in children: a 13 year review. J Trauma 30(8): 989-992, 1990.

Initial Management of Blunt Bladder Injury

Bladder injury is uncommon after blunt trauma. It is typically seen after high energy events, most commonly a motor vehicle crash with a lap belt in place. During the initial evaluation, the patient may complain of abdominal pain, but this is not universal. 

FAST results are also inconsistent. Free fluid may be seen, and an irregular bladder outline may also be appreciated. The key to diagnosis is placement of a urinary catheter. Bloody urine is found nearly 100% of the time. 

The character of the bloody urine suggests what type of injury is present. Faint hematuria, primarily shades of pink, is usually associated with renal injury or a bladder contusion. A moderate amount of darkly bloody urine is frequently associated with extraperitoneal bladder injury. A small amount of very dark, bloody urine may mean an intraperitoneal bladder injury. Finally, scant and very dark blood in the catheter suggests a urethral injury or a catheter balloon inflated in the urethra.

Examination of the urine is suggestive but not diagnostic of the type of injury. Determining the real diagnosis requires imaging, and evaluation of the entire GU tract is essential. CT scan is used to evaluate the kidneys, ureters, and to some degree, the bladder. Cystogram is required to fully evaluate the bladder, and a CT technique may be used. Bladder imaging using passive filling by clamping the catheter is accurate only 50% of the time. The bladder must be pressurized using contrast instilled into the bladder by gravity. When performed in this manner, the CT cystogram is 97% accurate.

Once a diagnosis of bladder injury is made, the treatment is usually straightforward. Extraperitoneal injuries usually do not require repair and will heal on their own. However, if the symphysis pubis needs instrumentation to restore anatomic position, concomitant repair of the bladder is frequently necessary to keep the hardware from being contaminated by urine. 

Intraperitoneal injuries require operative repair. If possible, the injured area should be opened and the inside visually inspected. If the injury extends anywhere near the trigone, a urology consult should be obtained. Most repairs are simple two layer closures. The mucosal layer must be made with absorbable suture; the outer layer is surgeon’s choice. 

For either type of bladder injury, the urinary catheter should be left in place for about 10 days. A cystogram should be obtained, and in most cases there will not be any leakage of urine and the catheter can be removed. In the event of a leak, another 7 days with the catheter is in order and the cystogram can be repeated.

The vast majority of bladder injuries can be easily handled by the trauma surgeon and are healed completely within two weeks.

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