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HPB Surgery
Volume 4 (1991), Issue 1, Pages 49-58

Blunt Liver Trauma at Sunnybrook Medical Centre: A 13 Year Experience

Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, Sunnybrook Medical Centre, H171, 2075 Bayview Avenue, University of Toronto, Ontario, Toronto M4N 3M5, Canada

Received 29 May 1990; Revised 24 October 1990; Accepted 27 October 1990

Copyright © 1991 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Between June 1, 1976 and June 30, 1989 The Regional Trauma Unit at Sunnybrook Medical Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada received 3730 patients. Of these 335 (9%) sustained a liver injury, 95% being due to blunt trauma. Open peritoneal lavage was performed on 80% of liver trauma patients (267/335), 99% being true positive.

A laparotomy was performed on 97% of patients (324/335). Major surgical treatment was required in 132 patients (41%) and minor treatment in 192 patients (59%). The remaining 11 patients were treated conservatively (n = 3) or died during resuscitation (n = 8).

Morbidity directly related to the liver injury was seen in 29 of 249 surviving patients (11%) although overall morbidity was 27% (67/249). Reoperation was required in 6% (14/249) with abscess or hematoma accounting for 11 of 14 operations.

The overall mortality rate was 26% (86/335). Eighty two percent of patients (n = 276) had a grade I, II or III liver trauma according to Moore’s classification with a mortality of 12% (n = 32). The remaining 18% of patients (n = 59) had a grade IV or V liver trauma with a mortality of 44% (n = 26). Of the 86 deaths, head injury accounted for 48 (56% of deaths); liver hemorrhage for 17 (20%), liver sepsis for (1%) and other causes for 20 deaths (23%). Thus death due to the liver injury itself (hemorrhage and sepsis) occurred in 18 out of 335 patients (5% overall). Head injury accounted for the death of 48 out of 335 patients (14% overall).

Over the past 13 years a trend has occurred at our institution whereby we are seeing less liver trauma in our population of multiply injured patients from 12% (1976–1983) down to 7% (1985–1989); with a gradual decline in overall mortality from 32% (1976–1983) to 19% (1985–1989), whereas the precentage of deaths due to head injuries and liver injury have increased.