Does free fluid on abdominal computed tomographic scan after blunt trauma require laparotomy?

M A Cunningham, A H Tyroch, K L Kaups, J W Davis
Journal of Trauma 1998, 44 (4): 599-602; discussion 603

BACKGROUND: Abdominal computed tomographic (CT) scans are used in the evaluation of blunt trauma. The purpose of this study was to determine if isolated intraperitoneal fluid seen on CT scan necessitates laparotomy.

METHODS: Trauma registry records of patients who underwent abdominal computed tomography from January 1994 through January 1997 were studied. Data were reviewed for age, gender, CT scan interpretation, associated injuries, and operative findings.

RESULTS: Abdominal injury was identified in 126 patients. Seventy-eight patients had evidence of solid-organ injury and 17 patients had extraperitoneal injury. Isolated intraperitoneal fluid was identified in 31 patients. All patients with isolated fluid underwent laparotomy; 29 of these procedures (94%) were therapeutic. Bowel injuries occurred in 18 patients and mesenteric injuries in 8 patients. Five patients had intraperitoneal bladder rupture, and undetected solid-organ injuries were found in two patients. Other organs injured included the stomach, pancreas, ovary, and uterus.

CONCLUSION: Exploratory laparotomy was therapeutic in 94% of patients. Isolated intraperitoneal fluid on CT scan after blunt trauma mandates laparotomy.

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