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Ann Surg. 1992 May;215(5):467-74; discussion 474-5.

Abdominal packing for surgically uncontrollable hemorrhage.

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Department of Surgery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.


Planned intra-abdominal packing for surgically uncontrollable hemorrhage from liver and retroperitoneal injuries exacerbated by hypothermia, acidosis, and coagulopathy regained popularity over the past decade. The authors reviewed 39 patients injured between August 1985 and September 1990; 31 packed for liver injuries, eight for nonliver injuries. The overall mortality rate was 44% (17/39); 9 (23%) exsanguinated, 3 (8%) died of head injuries, 3 (8%) of multisystem organ failure, 2 (5%) of late complications. The mean age was 33.9 +/- 16.2 (range, 16 to 79); there were 26 men and 13 women. Relaparotomy for pack removal was performed 2.0 +/- 1.1 days (range, 1 to 7) after initial operation. The authors identified intraoperative risk factors of pH less than or equal to 7.18, temperature less than or equal to 33 C, prothrombin time greater than or equal to 16, partial thromboplastin time greater than or equal to 50, and transfusion of 10 units or more of blood as highly predictive of outcome. Patients with four to five risk factors (n = 3) had a 100% mortality rate (p less than 0.04); two to three risk factors (n = 12), 83% mortality rate (p less than 0.003), compared with zero to one risk factors (n = 24), 18% mortality rate. Complications developed in six of 22 survivors (27%): 5 abdominal abscesses (23%), 2 wound dehiscences (9%), and 2 enterocutaneous fistulae (9%). Intra-abdominal packing will not stop all bleeding; 23% of the patients exsanguinated. In 77%, packing helped achieve hemostasis we believed was not otherwise possible. Packing may be done to prevent the development of acidosis, hypothermia, and coagulopathy or may be done early in the treatment of cold, acidotic patients rather than massive transfusion in the face of surgically uncorrectable bleeding.

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