Background: Selective nonoperative management of blunt liver injuries has become standard practice in most trauma centers. We evaluated the role of selective nonoperative management of gunshot wounds to the liver. Study Design: This was a retrospective review of gunshot wounds to the liver treated in a level I trauma center. Patients with peritoneal signs or hemodynamic instability were operated on without delay. Patients with a soft, nontender abdomen and no signs of heavy bleeding were selected for nonoperative management. Liver injury was diagnosed by CT scan. If peritonitis or signs of substantial internal bleeding developed, an operation was performed; otherwise the patient was discharged within a few days of admission. Analysis was restricted to the group of patients with isolated liver injuries. Results: During a 42-month period, 928 patients were admitted with abdominal gunshot injuries, 152 of whom (16%) had a liver injury. In 52 patients (34% of all liver injuries), the liver was the only injured intraabdominal organ (4 patients had associated kidney or splenic injuries that did not require surgical repair). Thirty-six of the patients (69%) with isolated liver injuries had an emergent operation because of signs of peritonitis or hemodynamic instability. The remaining 16 patients (31%) were selected for nonoperative management (3 patients had associated right kidney injury). Five patients in the observed group required delayed operation because of development of signs of peritonitis (4 patients) or abdominal compartment syndrome (1 patient). The remaining 11 patients (7% of all liver injuries or 21% of isolated liver injuries) were managed successfully without operation. One patient with delayed operation developed multiple complications from abdominal compartment syndrome, and 1 patient in the nonoperative group had a biloma, which was treated with percutaneous drainage. Conclusions: Selected patients with isolated grades I and II gunshot wounds to the liver can be managed nonoperatively.
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