Secondary abdominal compartment syndrome: an underappreciated manifestation of severe hemorrhagic shock

J Trauma. 1999 Dec;47(6):995-9. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199912000-00001.


Objective: Abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) has multiple well-described etiologies, but almost no attention has focused on ACS in the absence of abdominal injury. This study describes a secondary ACS that occurs after severe hemorrhagic shock with no evidence of abdominal injury.

Methods: The trauma registry at a Level I trauma center was reviewed for a 13-month period beginning July 1, 1997.

Results: During the study period, there were 46 of 1,216 intensive care unit admissions (4%) who required laparotomy and mesh closure of the abdominal wall because of visceral edema. In that subgroup, six patients (13% of mesh closures, 0.5% intensive care unit admissions) had hemorrhagic shock (5/1, blunt/penetrating trauma) but no evidence of intra-abdominal injury. Associated extremity compartment syndrome developed in two of six (33%). Overall mortality was four of six (67%), secondary to sepsis (n = 3), and head injury (n = 1). Time from admission to decompression averaged 3 hours in survivors and 25 hours in nonsurvivors (overall average = 18+/-9 hours). Resuscitation volume before abdominal decompression averaged 19+/-5 liters of crystalloid and 29+/-10 units of packed red blood cells. Bladder pressure averaged 33+/- 3 mm Hg. Decompression significantly improved peak inspiratory pressure (p < 0.003) and base deficit (p < 0.003).

Conclusion: ACS can occur with no abdominal injury; The incidence of secondary ACS was 0.5% in this cohort trauma intensive care unit patients, so it probably occurs more frequently than is currently appreciated. Because survivors were decompressed 20 hours before nonsurvivors, early recognition might improve outcomes. On the basis of these observations, we recommend that bladder pressures should be routinely checked and acted on appropriately when resuscitation volumes approach 10 liters of crystalloid or 10 units of packed red cells.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / blood supply*
  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Cause of Death
  • Compartment Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Compartment Syndromes / etiology*
  • Compartment Syndromes / metabolism
  • Compartment Syndromes / mortality
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Decompression, Surgical
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / complications*
  • Plasma Substitutes / therapeutic use
  • Registries
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / complications*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Trauma Centers
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Crystalloid Solutions
  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Plasma Substitutes