A selective non-operative management (SNOM) has found to be an adequate and safe strategy to assess and treat patients suffering from penetrating trauma of the extremities (PTE). With this SNOM comes a strategy in which adjuvant investigations or interventions are not routinely performed, but based on physical examination only.
All subsequent patients presented with PTE at a Dutch level I trauma center from October 2000 to June 2011 were included in this study. In-hospital and long-term outcome was analysed in the light of assessment of these patients according to the SNOM protocol.
A total of 668 patients (88.2% male; 33.8% gunshot wounds) with PTE presented at the Emergency Department of a level 1 traumacenter, of whom 156 were admitted for surgical treatment or observation. Overall, 22 (14%) patients that were admitted underwent exploration of the extremity for vascular injury. After conservative observation, two (1.5%) patients needed an intervention to treat (late onset) vascular complications. Other long-term extremity related complications were loss of function or other deformity (n = 9) due to missed nerve injury, including 2 patients with peroneal nerve injury caused by delayed compartment syndrome treatment.
A SNOM protocol for initial assessment and treatment of PTE is feasible and safe. Clinical examination of the injured extremity is a reliable diagnostic 'tool' for excluding vascular injury. Repeated assessments for nerve injuries are important as these are the ones that are frequently missed and result in long-term disability. Level of evidence: II / III, retrospective prognostic observational cohort study Key words Penetrating trauma, extremity, vascular injury, complications.