Guidelines for the management of haemodynamically stable patients with stab wounds to the anterior abdomen

Michael Sugrue, Zsolt Balogh, Joan Lynch, Joel Bardsley, Glenn Sisson, John Weigelt
ANZ Journal of Surgery 2007, 77 (8): 614-20
Clinical practice guidelines have been shown to improve the delivery of care. Anterior abdominal stab wounds, although uncommon, pose a challenge in both rural and urban trauma care. A multidisciplinary working party was established to assist in the development of evidence-based guidelines to answer three key clinical questions: (i) What is the ideal prehospital management of anterior abdominal stab wounds? (ii) What is the ideal management of anterior abdominal stab wounds in a rural or urban hospital without an on-call surgeon? (iii) What is the ideal emergency management of stable patients with anterior abdominal stab wounds when surgical service is available? A systematic review, using Cochrane method, was undertaken. The data were graded by level of evidence as outlined by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Stable patients with anterior abdominal stab wounds should be transported to the hospital without delay. Any interventions deemed necessary in prehospital care should be undertaken en route to hospital. In rural hospitals with no on-call surgeon, local wound exploration (LWE) may be undertaken by a general practitioner if confident in this procedure. Otherwise or in the presence of obvious fascial penetration, such as evisceration, the patient should be transferred to the nearest main trauma service for further management. In urban hospitals the patient with omental or bowel evisceration or generalized peritonitis should undergo urgent exploratory laparotomy. Stable patients may be screened using LWE. Abdominal computed tomography scan and plain radiographs are not indicated. Obese and/or uncooperative patients require a general anaesthetic for laparoscopy. If there is fascial penetration on LWE or peritoneal penetration on laparoscopy, then an urgent laparotomy should be undertaken. The developed evidence-based guidelines for stable patients with anterior abdominal stab wounds may help minimize unnecessary diagnostic tests and non-therapeutic laparotomy rates.

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