Tag Archives: Practice guideline

In The Next Trauma MedEd Newsletter: Practice Guidelines

The November issue of the Trauma MedEd newsletter will be sent out soon! It’s chock full of tips and tricks dealing with trauma practice guidelines

This issue is being released over the weekend. If you are already a subscriber, you will receive it automatically. If not and you sign up any time before then, you will receive it, too. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until it goes out to the general public a week or two later. Click this link right away to sign up now and/or download back issues.

In this issue, get some tips on:

  • The Value Of Practice Guidelines
  • Guidelines vs Protocols
  • Developing Your Own Protocols/Guidelines
  • Anatomy Of A Guideline
  • How To Monitor Your Guidelines
  • Sample Guidelines

As always, this month’s issue will go to all of my subscribers first. If you are not yet one of them, click this link right away to sign up now and/or download back issues.

New EAST Practice Guideline: Spleen Vaccines After Angioembolization

I am trying to figure out how I missed it! The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) snuck a new practice management guideline into the Injury journal last fall. And it desperately tries to answer a question that has been hanging around for several years. Do we vaccinate spleen injury patients who undergo angioembolization or not?

I’ve been pondering this for some time and have reached my own conclusion based on some very old literature. Decades ago, we figured out that removing the spleen significantly affects immune function. Splenectomy patients are known to be more susceptible to encapsulated bacteria like Neisseria meningiditis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae. Most trauma centers routinely vaccinate these patients before they are discharged home.

With the more recent emphasis on splenic salvage and nonoperative management of injury to this organ, angioembolization has become commonplace. This technique can be done in two ways: proximal and distal. Proximal embolization blocks the splenic artery, so there is no further blood flow to the spleen through it. Distal embolization (selective or super-selective) strives to block flow to very specific areas of the organ.

Do we need to give the vaccines if we cut off blood flow to pieces of the spleen or the main splenic artery? Based on my appreciation of very old splenectomy and partial splenectomy papers, it looked like we should in some cases. One report showed that splenic protection from encapsulated bacteria required about 50% of the spleen to be present and perfused by the splenic artery. This caveat stems from a time when we would perform a trauma splenectomy, dice the spleen up on the back table, and then implant a bunch of spleen cubes into the mesentery to try to provide some immune protection. Turns out that the pieces lived but didn’t do a damn thing.

My practice, then, has been to look at the fluoro images and estimate how much of the spleen was left. I would order the vaccines if a main splenic artery embolization (proximal) was performed. If a distal embolization were performed, I would eyeball the amount of devascularized spleen and give the vaccines if it looked like more than half was dark. Not very precise, I know.

But what would EAST say? They tried to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that compared outcomes in splenectomy vs. angioembolization patients. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of research material out there. So they settled on looking at papers that analyzed immune function, typically using B-cells, T-cells, and antibodies. The authors performed two comparisons: angioembolization vs. splenectomy and angioembolization vs. control.

Angioembolization vs. Splenectomy

These papers compared embolization patients who may or may not have spleen function to splenectomy patients who definitely have none. Embolization patients had fewer infectious complications during their hospital stay and better immune function using the indirect methods noted above. Unfortunately, the data quality was poor, with a significant risk of bias. There was no stratification of proximal vs. distal embolization. Nevertheless, this suggests that, at least overall, the embolization patients retained immune function.

Angioembolization vs. Controls

What about comparing embolization patients to spleen-injured patients who did not undergo any procedure? They should have normal function. Again, the quality of the very few papers available was low. But overall, there was no difference in immune function between the groups.

Bottom line: The EAST review team conditionally recommended against routine spleen vaccines after angioembolization for spleen injury. They concluded that immune function was maintained, so it should not be necessary.

What, you ask, about patients with proximal splenic embolization? The reality is that this only stops inflow from the splenic artery, and only for a few days or weeks. It may slowly resume over time. And it does nothing to the inflow from the short gastric arteries. Apparently, this is enough to provide immune protection against infection.

Whether this is actually true is open to debate. We have no idea if the numbers of T- and B-cells seen and the antibody titers are actually enough to avoid overwhelming post-splenectomy sepsis. And unfortunately, this condition is so rare that we will never accumulate enough cases to make a definitive statement.

But for now, it is probably okay to forgo the vaccines in patients undergoing angioembolization. Besides, the differing guidelines on which vaccines to use, when to give them, and when to schedule boosters were getting way out of hand! Please keep it simple!

Reference: Vaccination after spleen embolization: a practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. Injury 53:3569-3574, 2022.

NSAIDs And Fracture Healing Revisited – Yet Again!

I’ve written so many posts about the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) it’s practically getting old. To summarize, some old animal studies suggested that using NSAIDs during fracture healing could impair the process. However, human studies were not so convincing.

Over the years, there has been quite a bit of conflicting evidence. This generally means the association between healing and NSAID use is weak. However, after this period of time, we should have become aware of a significant cause/effect relationship.

The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma recently released a practice management guideline regarding the use of NSAIDs for the treatment of acute pain after orthopedic trauma. They used a standard methodology to identify and analyze published research. They focused on human studies specifically relating to this drug class’s use in fractures. The group ultimately identified 19 pertinent research papers for analysis, 10 of which were prospective, randomized studies.

Here are the three questions they asked, with their answers:

  • Should NSAIDs be used in analgesic regimens for adult patients
    (≥18 years old) with traumatic fracture versus routine analgesic
    regimens that do not include NSAIDs to improve analgesia and
    reduce opioid use without increases in non-union and acute kidney
    injury rates? Although the quality of the studies for this question was low, EAST conditionally recommended using NSAIDs in pain control regimens. In the higher-quality studies in this group, there was no increased risk of non-union.
  • Should ketorolac be used in analgesic regimens for adult patients with traumatic fracture versus routine analgesic regimens that do not include ketorolac to improve analgesia and reduce opioid use without increasing non-union
    rates? This is the same question asked above, but with a specific drug rather than the class in general. The answer was basically the same.
  • Should selective NSAIDs (COX-2 inhibitors) be used in analgesic
    regimens for adult patients (≥18 years old) with traumatic fracture versus routine analgesic regimens that include non-selective NSAIDs to improve analgesia and reduce opioid use without increasing non-union rates?
    COX-2 inhibitors are a subset of NSAIDs that are more selective in their action, blocking only the COX-2 receptor. Several years ago, there was a scandal regarding the COX-2 inhibitor rofecoxib (Vioxx). These selective drugs tended to have a higher incidence of cardiac complications. The manufacturer covered up this fact for several years, resulting in many unneeded deaths before it was removed from the market. The only COX-2 inhibitor available in the US is celecoxib. Only a few studies were performed using this drug during bone healing. There were not enough to make a recommendation.

Bottom line: EAST made conditional recommendations for using NSAIDs in general and ketorolac specifically in adults with fractures. “Conditional” only means that the authors did not have a consensus. Some voted to strongly recommend, and the remainder to conditionally recommend. There were no votes to recommend against their use.

The use of NSAIDs should complement a well-thought-out opioid regimen, which should also be combined with other non-narcotic medications and appropriate mobilization and therapy.

Reference: Efficacy and safety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) for the treatment of acute pain after orthopedic trauma: a practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma and the Orthopedic Trauma Association. Trauma Surg Acute Care Open. 2023 Feb 21;8(1):e001056. doi: 10.1136/tsaco-2022-001056. PMID: 36844371; PMCID: PMC9945020.

Serial Abdominal Examination: The Practice Guideline

Last week, I published a preliminary practice guideline for nonoperative management of abdominal stab wounds. Click here to view it. A key part of that guideline is the serial abdominal exam. Surgeons talk about this a lot, but how do you do it? I posted about many of the details here.

The serial exam is nuanced enough so that it deserves its own clinical practice guideline! You won’t find this in any doctor or nursing books. It’s really simple, but the devil is truly in the details.

Click this image or the link below to download the guideline. I’ve also posted a Microsoft publisher version in case you want to modify it to suit your center.

Please feel free to email or post comments and questions in the area below this post!


Nonoperative Management Of Abdominal Stab Wounds: The Practice Guideline!

In my previous post, I reviewed a new paper that examined the appropriate amount of time that patients should be observed for nonoperative manage of an abdominal stab wound. Many of you know that I am a fanatic of properly crafted clinical practice guidelines (CPG). I decided to make a first pass at converting the LAC+USC group’s paper to something that will be helpful at the bedside.

This CPG incorporates the patient selection and timing information published in the paper. It breaks the process down into easily followed tasks, and fills in the blanks for shift to shift management. The CPG is displayed in an “if this, then do that” format. This firms up decision making and makes it easier for your trauma program to monitor compliance with it.

A note about CPGs: they generally cover about 90% of clinical cases. Obviously, they cannot provide guidance for certain rare combinations of circumstance. In that case, the trauma professional should do what they think is right for that situation. Most importantly, they should document this rationale in a progress note.

Here are answers to some of your questions in advance:

  • Patients should not be kept at bed rest. This is always bad.
  • There is no reason to keep the patient NPO. A very small percentage of patients actually fail. It makes no sense to starve everybody for the one or two patients that need to go to the OR each year. Anesthesiologists at trauma centers are very skilled at providing safe intubation in all patients. As you all know, every trauma activation patient coming into your trauma bay needing intubation has just finished a seven course meal!
  • Give your patient clear discharge instructions! They need to know what they can do, and what to look for if things eventually go awry.

And please leave comments and suggestions for improvements in the reply box below or by email to [email protected]. There are always ways to make CPGs even better! I have also included a Microsoft Publisher file so you can modify this guideline to better suit your trauma center.

In my next post, I’ll publish the serial abdominal observation CPG I mention in this one.


  1. Download a pdf file of the guideline
  2. Download a Publisher file of the guideline