Management of liver trauma



Background and methods:

Management of blunt or penetrating injuries to the liver remains a significant challenge. This review discusses the mechanisms of liver injury, grading system for severity, available diagnostic modalities and current management options. It is based on a Medline literature search and the authors' clinical experience.


Unstable patients require immediate laparotomy, but selected patients who are haemo- dynamically stable may be managed without operation. The preferred operative techniques include resectional debridement, hepatotomy with direct suture ligation and perihepatic packing; anatomical resection, hepatic artery ligation and various bypass techniques have a limited, more defined role for selected injuries. Major complications include haemorrhage, sepsis and bile leak.


Enhanced resuscitation, anaesthesia and intensive care have contributed to a significant reduction in mortality rates from liver trauma. Optimum results are obtained with a specialist team that includes an experienced liver surgeon, anaesthetist, endoscopist and interventional hepatobiliary radiologist with expertise in managing postoperative complications. © 1999 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd