This is a report of a 10-year experience (1989-1998) with 300 consecutive patients found to have an injury to a named abdominal vessel at the time of an exploratory laparotomy for trauma. An abdominal gunshot wound was the mechanism of injury in 78 per cent of patients, and injury to more than one named abdominal vessel was present in 42 per cent. The abdominal aorta, inferior vena cava, and external iliac artery and vein were the most commonly injured vessels. When management for the five most commonly injured arteries was grouped, exsanguination before attempts at repair occurred in 11 to 15 per cent of patients and the mean survival in the remainder was 46 per cent. When management for the five most commonly injured veins was grouped, exsanguination before attempts at repair occurred in 5 per cent of patients and the mean survival in the remainder was 64 per cent. A number of administrative and medical changes in the management of patients with abdominal trauma occurred from 1992 through 1994. Despite significantly increased Injury Severity Scores for patients treated from 1993 through 1998 as compared with those treated from 1989 through 1992 survival rates for patients with injuries to the abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava were unchanged. Survival rates for injuries to the external iliac artery and vein increased significantly. The local changes in management should be considered for prospective studies in other urban trauma centers.