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JSLS. 2004 Oct-Dec;8(4):304-9.

The role of laparoscopy in penetrating abdominal trauma.

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Department of Surgery, Methodist Hospital of Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA.



Minimally invasive surgery has become increasingly utilized in the trauma setting. When properly applied, it offers several advantages, including reduced morbidity, lower rates of negative laparotomy, and shortened length of hospital stay. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of laparoscopy in the management of trauma patients with penetrating abdominal injuries.


We conducted a 3-year retrospective chart review of 4541 trauma patients admitted to our urban Level II trauma center. Penetrating abdominal injuries accounted for 209 of these admissions. Patients were divided into 3 treatment groups based on the characteristics of their abdominal injuries. Management was either observation, immediate laparotomy, or screening laparoscopy.


Thirty-three patients were observed in the Emergency Department based on their initial physical examination and radiologic studies. After Emergency Department evaluation, 154 patients underwent immediate laparotomy. In this group, 119 therapeutic laparotomies, 11 nontherapeutic laparotomies, and 24 negative laparotomies were performed. A review of the negative laparotomies revealed that possibly 8 of 10 gun shot wounds and all 14 stab wounds could have been done laparoscopically. Twenty-two patients underwent laparoscopic evaluation, 9 of which were converted to open procedures.


Minimally invasive surgical techniques are particularly helpful as a screening tool for anterior abdominal wall wounds and lower chest injuries to rule out peritoneal penetration. Increased use of laparoscopy in select patients with penetrating abdominal trauma will decrease the rate of negative and nontherapeutic laparotomies, thus lowering morbidity and decreasing length of hospitalization. As technology and expertise among surgeons continues to improve, more therapeutic intervention may be done laparoscopically in the future.

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