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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Sep;75(3):365-8. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31829cb65e.

Damage-control laparotomy in nontrauma patients: review of indications and outcomes.

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  • 1From the Department of Surgery (A.K., S.M., I.C.), and Acute Surgical Unit (L.H.), Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.



The principle of damage-control laparotomy (DCL) in trauma is well established. The DCL concept can be applied in emergency general surgery when an abbreviated laparotomy is performed at the initial stage. Subsequent definitive management and abdominal closure are achieved when the patient is stabilized. In this study, we report our experience with DCL in acute general surgical nontrauma patients.


A retrospective review was performed of all nontrauma patients who underwent DCL at Auckland City Hospital from January 2008 to December 2010. Data including indications and outcome were collected and analyzed.


Forty-two nontrauma patients underwent DCL in the 3-year period. The median age was 66 years. There were 22 males and 20 females. The most common primary indications for DCL were bowel ischemia (13 patients), bleeding (13 patients), and peritonitis (10 patients). Majority of patients had an American Society of Anesthesiologists score of 3 or 4. Overall, 24 patients (57%) underwent closure of the fascia within 7 days, 7 patients were closed after more than 7 days, and 11 patients could not undergo primary closure at all. The main complications after DCL were sepsis (14 patients) and intra-abdominal collections (10 patients). There were significantly fewer postoperative complications in patients undergoing early closure. The medium length of stay in intensive care as well as in hospital was significantly less in the early closure group. However, postoperative respiratory failure was more common in those with early closure (5 vs. 0). The mortality rate overall was 19%, with no significant difference regarding timing of abdominal closure.


The DCL principle is often applied to the critically ill surgical patients in the nontrauma setting. This group of critical surgical patients has a high morbidity and mortality. However, early abdominal closure should be performed where possible to prevent complications. It is unclear whether patients with early closure were going to have a better outcome regardless, and prospective studies are needed to address.


Therapeutic/care management, level V.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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