Penetrating renal injuries: an observational study of non-operative management and the impact of opening Gerota’s fascia

Background Non-operative management has become increasingly popular in the treatment of renal trauma. While data are robust in blunt mechanisms, the role of non-operative management in penetrating trauma is less clear. Additionally, there is a paucity of data comparing gunshot and stab wounds. Methods A retrospective review of patients admitted to a high-volume level 1 trauma center (Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town) with penetrating abdominal trauma was performed. Patients with renal injuries were identified and compared based on mechanism [gunshot (GSW) vs. stab] and management strategy (operative vs. non-operative). Primary outcomes of interest were mortality and failure of non-operative management. Secondary outcomes of interest were nephrectomy rates, Clavien-Dindo complication rate, hospital length of stay, and overall morbidity rate. Results A total of 150 patients with renal injuries were identified (82 GSW, 68 stab). Overall, 55.2% of patients required emergent/urgent laparotomy. GSWs were more likely to cause grade V injury and concurrent intra-abdominal injuries (p > 0.05). The success rate of non-operative management was 91.6% (89.9% GSW, 92.8% stab, p = 0.64). The absence of hematuria on point of care testing demonstrated a negative predictive value of 98.4% (95% CI 96.8–99.2%). All but 1 patient who failed non-operative management had associated intra-abdominal injuries requiring surgical intervention. Opening of Gerota’s fascia resulted in nephrectomy in 55.6% of cases. There were no statistically significant risk factors for failure of non-operative management identified on univariate logistic regression. Conclusions NOM of penetrating renal injuries can be safely and effectively instituted in both gunshot and stab wounds with a very low number of patients progressing to laparotomy. Most patients fail NOM for associated injuries. During laparotomy, the opening of Gerota’s fascia may lead to increased risk of nephrectomy. Ongoing study with larger populations is required to develop effective predictive models of patients who will fail NOM.