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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Blunt trauma induced splenic blushes are not created equal

Clay Cothren Burlew12*, Lucy Z Kornblith1, Ernest E Moore1, Jeffrey L Johnson1 and Walter L Biffl1

Author Affiliations

1 From The Department of Surgery, Denver Health Medical Center, Denver CO, USA

2 Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Trauma & Acute Care Surgery Fellowship, Department of Surgery, Denver Health Medical Center, 777 Bannock Street, MC 0206, Denver, CO 80204, USA

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World Journal of Emergency Surgery 2012, 7:8  doi:10.1186/1749-7922-7-8

Published: 30 March 2012



Currently, evidence of contrast extravasation on computed tomography (CT) scan is regarded as an indication for intervention in splenic injuries. In our experience, patients transferred from other institutions for angioembolization have often resolved the blush upon repeat imaging at our hospital. We hypothesized that not all splenic blushes require intervention.


During a 10-year period, we reviewed all patients transferred with blunt splenic injuries and contrast extravasation on initial postinjury CT scan.


During the study period, 241 patients were referred for splenic injuries, of whom 16 had a contrast blush on initial CT imaging (88% men, mean age 35 ± 5, mean ISS 26 ± 3). Eight (50%) patients were managed without angioembolization or operation. Comparing patients with and without intervention, there was a significant difference in admission heart rate (106 ± 9 vs 83 ± 6) and decline in hematocrit following transfer (5.3 ± 2.0 vs 1.0 ± 0.3), but not in injury grade (3.9 ± 0.2 vs 3.5 ± 0.3), systolic blood pressure (125 ± 10 vs 115 ± 6), or age (38.5 ± 8.2 vs 30.9 ± 4.7). Of the 8 observed patients, 3 underwent repeat imaging immediately upon arrival with resolution of the blush. In the intervention group, 4 patients had ongoing extravasation on repeat imaging, 2 patients underwent empiric embolization, and 2 patients underwent splenectomy for physiologic indications.


For blunt splenic trauma, evidence of contrast extravasation on initial CT imaging is not an absolute indication for intervention. A period of observation with repeat imaging could avoid costly, invasive interventions and their associated sequelae.

Trauma; Injury; Spleen; Blush; Contrast extravasation; Angioembolization