BACKGROUND: Nonoperative management of blunt hepatic injury is currently a widely accepted treatment modality. Computed tomography (CT) is an important imaging study both for diagnosis and follow-up of these patients. There is, however, no reliable predictor of failure of nonoperative treatment other than the ultimate development of hemodynamic instability. Previous reports mostly were based on the data obtained from low-speed dynamic incremental scanners. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the value of a high-speed helical scanner in predicting the outcome of patients managed nonoperatively. METHODS: During a 30-month period, 194 patients with blunt hepatic injury were treated, 150 of them were hemodynamically stable after initial resuscitation and underwent abdominal CT examination. All CT scans were performed with the High Speed Advantage Scanner. The CT scans and medical records were reviewed. RESULTS: Nonoperative management was successfully applied to all patients with grade I and II, 93% of grade III, 87% of grade IV, and 67% of grade V liver injuries. Twelve patients required liver-related celiotomy. Pooling of contrast material was detected on the CT scans of 8 patients. Six (75%) of these patients developed hemodynamic instability and required liver-related celiotomy later. Pooling of contrast material can be detected in 50% of the patients receiving liver-related celiotomy. CONCLUSION: The presence of pooling of contrast material within the hepatic parenchyma indicates free extravasation of blood as a result of active bleeding. In patients with blunt hepatic injury, if this sign is detected, nonoperative treatment should be terminated and angiography or celiotomy undertaken promptly. With the increasing use of high-speed spiral CT scanner and improvement in scanning technique, pooling of contrast material may become a sensitive sign for active bleeding and may be used as a guide for the selection of treatment modality.
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