Decompressive laparotomy for abdominal compartment syndrome--a critical analysis

Crit Care. 2006;10(2):R51. doi: 10.1186/cc4870.


Introduction: Abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) is increasingly recognized in critically ill patients, and the deleterious effects of increased intraabdominal pressure (IAP) are well documented. Surgical decompression through a midline laparotomy or decompressive laparotomy remains the sole definite therapy for ACS, but the effect of decompressive laparotomy has not been studied in large patient series.

Methods: We reviewed English literature from 1972 to 2004 for studies reporting the effects of decompressive laparotomy in patients with ACS. The effect of decompressive laparotomy on IAP, patient outcome and physiology were analysed.

Results: Eighteen studies including 250 patients who underwent decompressive laparotomy could be included in the analysis. IAP was significantly lower after decompression (15.5 mmHg versus 34.6 mmHg before, p < 0.001), but intraabdominal hypertension persisted in the majority of the patients. Mortality in the whole group was 49.2% (123/250). The effect of decompressive laparotomy on organ function was not uniform, and in some studies no effect on organ function was found. Increased PaO2/FIO2 ratio (PaO2 = partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood, FiO2 = fraction of inspired oxygen) and urinary output were the most pronounced effects of decompressive laparotomy.

Conclusion: The effects of decompressive laparotomy have been poorly investigated, and only a small number of studies report its effect on parameters of organ function. Although IAP is consistently lower after decompression, mortality remains considerable. Recuperation of organ dysfunction after decompressive laparotomy for ACS is variable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / pathology
  • Abdomen / surgery*
  • Compartment Syndromes / mortality
  • Compartment Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery*
  • Decompression, Surgical*
  • Humans