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Ann Surg. 1988 Mar;207(3):335-40.

Management of stab wounds to the thoracoabdominal region. A clinical approach.

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Department of Surgery, Harlem Hospital Center, New York, NY 10037.


We studied 324 patients admitted to Harlem Hospital Center from July 1981 to June 1986 with stab wounds of the thoracoabdominal region (area limited by a coronal circle through the fifth interspaces anteriorly and seventh interspaces posteriorly from above to a subcostal circle 5 cm caudad to the costal margins and 12th ribs from below). We divided this region into 12 zones (six symmetrical zones on each side) using the above upper and lower limits and the costal margins, the midlines, and the anterior and posterior axillary lines. This study was conducted to determine the incidence of transdiaphragmatic penetration for the thoracoabdominal region stab wounds in each of the 12 zones identified for the first time and applied in this study, and the reliability and safety of surgical management based mainly on physical examination. The highest incidence of transdiaphragmatic penetration occurred in stab wounds of the left anterior lower thoracic zone (21.7%). The lowest incidence was 0% and the overall incidence was 11%. Physical examination was accurate in making the diagnosis in 95.4% of all cases and no mortality was associated with a delay in diagnosis that may have resulted from the serial physical examinations. We conclude that this method of selective operative management based on physical examinations is accurate and safe.

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