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Pancreatic injuries after blunt abdominal trauma: an analysis of 110 patients treated at a level 1 trauma centre

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Background and objective. Injuries to the pancreas are uncommon, but may result in considerable morbidity and mortality. This study evaluated the management of blunt pancreatic injuries using a previously defined protocol to determine which factors predicted morbidity and mortality. Methods. The study design was a retrospective chart review of all adult patients with blunt pancreatic injuries treated at a level 1 trauma centre between March 1981 and June 2009. Results. One hundred and ten patients (92 men, 18 women; mean age 30 years, range 13 - 68 years) were treated during the study period. Forty-six patients had American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST) grade 1 or 2 pancreatic injuries and 64 body (N=48) and tail (N=26) of the pancreas. The mean number of organs injured was 2.7 per patient (range 1 - 4). One hundred and one patients underwent a total of 123 operations, including drainage of the pancreatic injury (N=73), distal pancreatectomy (N=39) and Whipple resection (N=5). The overall complication rate was 74.5% and the mortality rate 16.4%. Only 2 of the 18 deaths were attributable to the pancreatic injury. Shock on presentation was highly predictive of death; 17 of 39 patients with shock died, compared with 1 of 71 patients who were not shocked (p<0.0001). Fourteen of 46 patients with grade 1 and 2 pancreatic injuries died compared with 4 of 64 patients with grades 3, 4 and 5 injuries (p<0.001). Mortality increased exponentially as the number of associated injuries increased. Two of 57 patients with injury to the pancreas only or one associated injury died, compared with 16 of 53 with two or more associated injuries (p<0.0013). Conclusions. This study demonstrated a significant correlation between the AAST grade of injury and pancreas-specific morbidity and between shock on admission, the number of associated injuries and death, in patients with blunt pancreatic injuries. Although morbidity and mortality rates after blunt pancreatic trauma are high, death was usually the result of major associated injuries and not related to the pancreatic injury.


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