Treatment of intra-abdominal sepsis

J M Bohnen, J L Meakins
Canadian Journal of Surgery. Journal Canadien de Chirurgie 1984, 27 (3): 222-3, 225
Twenty-three surgeons at three McGill University hospitals were interviewed about their treatment of intra-abdominal sepsis. They described their use of antibiotics, operative practices and other treatment of generalized peritonitis and intra-abdominal abscesses. If more than 75% of respondents used a given method, its use was considered "uniform" unless substantial interhospital variation existed for that method. Treatment was variable in 18 situations. Only four of these involved systemic antibiotic use--drug regimens in appendicitis and intra-abdominal abscess, and duration of antibiotic therapy following appendicitis and perforated duodenal ulcer. The other 14 examples of variation were in operative management. In generalized peritonitis, they were: use of diagnostic paracentesis; abdominal lavage with saline alone versus saline plus antibiotic use; whether the peritoneum should ever be left open; the use or avoidance of drains; primary versus delayed wound closure in appendicitis, bowel perforation and trauma with gastrointestinal perforation and, finally, wound lavage with saline alone or with antibiotics. Treatment of intra-abdominal abscesses varied in regard to the diagnostic and therapeutic roles of percutaneous needle aspiration, the preferred route of drainage of a pelvic abscess, the use of an extra- or trans-serosal approach to a subphrenic abscess, local versus full abdominal exploration for a single abscess and the type of drain used. The authors conclude that operative management of intra-abdominal sepsis varies widely among surgeons. This fact invalidates many "controlled" trials of antibiotics and should focus attention less on drugs and more on surgical treatment.

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