Purpose of review: This article summarizes the current state of damage-control laparotomy as practiced in trauma surgery. Since the first description of deliberately abbreviated laparotomy 20 years ago, damage-control laparotomy has been widely applied. The purpose of this review is to discuss current concepts in damage-control laparotomy in trauma and general surgery patients.
Recent findings: The immediate, essential goals of control of surgical bleeding and containment of gastrointestinal soilage are achieved at a truncated laparotomy. Ongoing resuscitation of the injured patient with severe physiologic derangements is continued in the intensive care unit. Only when the lethal triad of hypothermia, metabolic acidosis, and coagulopathy is corrected does the patient subsequently undergo definitive surgery. Recent studies have better defined the subset of patients that benefit from such an approach.
Summary: Application of abbreviated laparotomy has been widely applied in the trauma population. Breaking the pathophysiologic cycle of hypothermia, coagulopathy, and acidosis with this approach has improved survivorship in this critically injured group of patients. The extension of the abbreviated laparotomy concept has also been described in the general surgery population, and raises the possibility of extending this concept to broader surgical fields.