JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Complementary roles of diagnostic peritoneal lavage and computed tomography in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma

R P Gonzalez, J Ickler, P Gachassin
Journal of Trauma 2001, 51 (6): 1128-34; discussion 1134-6
11740265

OBJECTIVE: To assess in randomized prospective format sensitivity, laparotomy rate, and cost-effectiveness of using diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) in a complementary role with computed tomography (CT) in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma.

METHODS: Blunt trauma patients greater than 18 years of age were eligible for entry in the study. The study period was from February 1999 to July 2000 at an urban Level I trauma center. All patients were hemodynamically stable upon study entry and had abdominal tenderness with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores > 13 or GCS < 14. Patients were randomized to a DPL arm (DPL-CT) versus a CT arm. If randomized to the CT arm, patients underwent abdominal/pelvis CT. If CT was positive for solid organ injury, patients were observed. If free fluid was identified on CT without solid organ injury, patients were explored. If randomized to DPL-CT, patients underwent closed infraumbilical DPL, except pelvic fractures that were done with the open supraumbilical technique. If the DPL result was > 20,000 RBCs/mm3, patients underwent abdominal/pelvis CT. If the CT following DPL was consistent with solid organ injury, patients were observed. If the CT following DPL identified free fluid without solid organ injury and DPL was > 100,000 RBCs/mm3, patients were explored.

RESULTS: Two hundred fifty-two patients were entered; 127 patients were randomized to DPL-CT and 125 to CT. Of the 125 patients randomized to CT, 102 (82%) CT scans were negative, 19 (15%) were positive for solid organ injury, and 3 (2%) had free fluid. Three (2%) of the initial negative CT scan patients underwent delayed laparotomy for missed injuries. Of the 127 patients randomized to DPL-CT, 26 (20%) required CT scan, of which 13 (10%) were positive for solid organ injury and 13 (10%) for free fluid. Positive DPL results that were indications for CT ranged from 21,000 to 1 million RBCs/mm3. Eight of the 13 DPL-CT patients with free fluid on CT had DPL results less than 100,000 RBCs/mm3 and did not require laparotomy. There were no known missed injuries in the DPL-CT arm. Seven (6%) laparotomies were performed in the DPL-CT arm and 10 (8%) in the CT arm. The average cost to the patient for abdominal evaluation in the CT arm was 1611 dollars and 650 dollars in the DPL-CT arm.

CONCLUSION: Screening DPL with complementary CT has a low nontherapeutic laparotomy rate and is a sensitive and cost-effective method for the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma.

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