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Decompressive laparotomy for abdominal compartment syndrome in children: before it is too late

Erik G Pearson, Michael D Rollins, Sarah A Vogler, Megan K Mills, Elizabeth L Lehman, Elisabeth Jacques, Douglas C Barnhart, Eric R Scaife, Rebecka L Meyers
Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2010, 45 (6): 1324-9

PURPOSE: Abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) in children is an infrequently reported, rapidly progressive, and often lethal condition underappreciated in the pediatric population. This underrecognition can result in a critical delay in diagnosis causing increased morbidity and mortality. This study examines the clinical course of patients treated for ACS at our institution.

METHODS: A review of children requiring an emergency laparotomy (n = 264) identified 26 patients with a diagnosis of ACS. ACS was defined as sustained intraabdominal hypertension (bladder pressure >12 mm Hg) that was associated with new onset organ dysfunction or failure.

RESULTS: Patients ranged in age from 3 months to 17 years old and were cared for in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Twenty-seven percent (n = 7) were transferred from referring hospitals, 50% (n = 13) were admitted directly from the emergency department, and 23% (n = 6) were inpatients before being transferred to PICU. Admission diagnoses included infectious enterocolitis (n = 12), postsurgical procedure (n = 10), and others (n = 4). Patients progressed to ACS rapidly, with most requiring decompressive laparotomy within 8 hours of PICU admission (range, <1-96 hours). Preoperatively, all patients had maximum ventilatory support and oliguria, 85% (n = 22) required vasopressors/inotropes, and 31% (n = 8) required hemodialysis. Mean bladder pressure was 25 mm Hg (range, 12-44 mm Hg). In 42% (n = 11), cardiac arrest preceeded decompressive laparotomy. All patients showed evidence of tissue ischemia before decompressive laparotomy with an average preoperative lactate of 8 (range, 1.2-20). Decompressive laparotomy was done at the bedside in the PICU in 13 patients and in the operating room in 14 patients. Abdominal wounds were managed with open vacuum pack or silastic silo dressings. Physiologic data including fluid resuscitation, oxygen index, mean airway pressure, vasopressor score, and urine output were recorded at 6-hour intervals beginning 12 hours before decompressive laparotomy and extending 12 hours after operation. The data demonstrate improvement of all physiologic parameters after decompressive laparotomy except for urine output, which continued to be minimal 12 hours post intervention. Mortality was 58% (n = 15) overall. The only significant factor related to increased mortality was bladder pressure (P = .046; odds ratio, 1.258). Cardiac arrest before decompressive laparotomy, need for hemodialysis, and transfer from referring hospital also trended toward increased mortality but did not reach significance.

CONCLUSION: Abdominal compartment syndrome in children carries a high mortality and may be a consequence of common childhood diseases such as enterocolitis. The diagnosis of ACS and the potential need for emergent decompressive laparotomy may be infrequently discussed in the pediatric literature. Increased awareness of ACS may promote earlier diagnosis, treatment, and possibly improve outcomes.


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