JOURNAL ARTICLE

Is delayed laparotomy for blunt abdominal trauma a valid quality improvement measure in the era of nonoperative management of abdominal injuries?

Victor J Sorensen, Judy N Mikhail, Riyad C Karmy-Jones
Journal of Trauma 2002, 52 (3): 426-33
11901315

BACKGROUND: Review of hemodynamically stable patients who undergo laparotomy for trauma greater than 4 hours after admission is an American College of Surgeons quality improvement filter. We reviewed our recent experience with patients who underwent laparotomy for trauma greater than 4 hours after admission to evaluate the reasons for delay, and to determine whether they were because of failure of nonoperative management or other causes.

METHODS: The registry at our Level I trauma center was searched from January 1998 through December 2000 for patients who required a laparotomy for trauma greater than 4 hours after admission. Of 3,369 admitted blunt trauma patients, 90 (2.7%) underwent laparotomy for trauma, of which 26 (29%) were identified as delayed laparotomies greater than 4 hours after admission.

RESULTS: The most common mechanism of injury was motor vehicle crash, the mean Injury Severity Score was 18, and 65% of the patients had significant distracting injuries. Five patients had laparotomy greater than 24 hours after admission. The average time to the operating room in the remaining patients was 8.6 hours. Clinical examination (61%) findings were the most common indication for operation. Gastrointestinal (GI) tract injury was the most common injury associated with delay in laparotomy (58%).

CONCLUSION: GI tract injuries are the predominant injury leading to delayed laparotomy for blunt trauma (58%). Failed nonoperative management of solid organ injuries occurred less frequently (15%). Future efforts should concentrate on earlier identification of GI tract injury. Delayed laparotomy for blunt abdominal trauma is a valid quality improvement measure.

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