Blunt abdominal aortic injury (BAAI) is a rare injury with less than 200 cases in the current reported world literature, mostly in case report format. We sought to describe the experience of a high-volume trauma center and to provide a contemporary review of the literature to better understand the natural history and management of this injury.
This was a retrospective review of patients with BAAI between 1996 and 2010. Data collected included demographics, mechanism of injury, associated injuries, type of intervention, subsequent imaging, and follow-up. BAAI was classified by the presence of external aortic contour abnormality noted as an intimal tear, large intimal flap, pseudoaneurysm, or free rupture. Abdominal aorta zones of injury were classified by possible surgical approaches as zone I (diaphragmatic hiatus to superior mesenteric artery [SMA]), zone II (includes SMA and renal arteries), and zone III (from the inferior aspect of the renal arteries to the aortic bifurcation).
We identified 28 individuals (68% male) with BAAI (median age, 28.5; range, 6-61 years). The median injury severity score was 45 (range, 16-75), and 39% were hypotensive at presentation. BAAI presented as intimal tear (21%), large intimal flap (39%), pseudoaneurysm (11%), and free rupture (29%). Zone III was the most common location of injury. Management depended on the location and type of injury: nonoperative (32%), open aortic repair (36%), endovascular repair (21%), and multimodality (10%). Overall mortality was 32%. Most deaths occurred during the initial operative exploration. The mortality rate of free aortic rupture was 100%. Intimal tears resolved or remained stable. Median follow-up was 15.5 months (range, 8 days-7.5 years). Vascular complications due to repair included a thrombosed access femoral artery during an endovascular repair and death of a patient who underwent a hybrid repair.
This is the largest BAAI series described in the English literature at one institution. BAAIs range from intimal tears to free rupture, with outcomes and management correlating with type and location of injury. Nonoperative management with blood pressure control using β-blockers coupled with antiplatelet therapy and close follow-up is successful in individuals with intimal tears with minimal thrombus formation because they remain stable or resolve on follow-up. Free rupture remains a devastating injury, with 100% mortality. For all other categories of aortic injury, successful repair correlates with a favorable prognosis.