Background: The open abdomen after severe intra-abdominal trauma and emergency surgery is a major operative challenge. It is associated with high morbidity and prolonged hospital stays. Several management strategies have been developed to assist with fascial closure but no single method has emerged as the best. The Wittmann Patch (Starsurgical, Burlington, WI) is a unique device which uses velcro to permit progressive abdominal closure without necessitating serial operations. The purpose of this study was to determine the fascial closure rate using the Wittmann patch. We hypothesized that use of the patch would result in a high closure rate.
Methods: Hospital billing codes were reviewed to identify those patients who underwent Wittmann patch placement. During the period from June 2002 to May of 2006, 29 patients were identified. These included 19 trauma patients and 10 other surgical patients. Other patients included vascular, bariatric, and emergency general surgery patients. The trauma registry and the patients' medical records were reviewed to determine injury severity, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores, fluid requirements, patch placement, management, and patient outcomes.
Results: Twenty-two (76%) of the 29 patients survived to discharge. The average Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score was 25 +/- 6 in all patients, 22.9 +/- 6 in survivors, and 31 +/- 3 in those who died (p = 0.004). Mean injury severity scale and abdominal abbreviated injury scale scores in trauma patients were 28 +/- 10 and 3 +/- 2, respectively. The mean volume of fluid given during the 24 hours before having an open abdomen or patch placement was 17.6 L +/- 10.1 L. Twenty-five (86.2%) of 29 patients had at least one abdominal operation before placement of the patch (mean 1.3 +/- 1.0). Eighteen (82%) of 22 patients who survived to discharge had successful facial closure. Three patients (14%) required mesh placement for abdominal closure. The remaining patient had his patch removed and ultimately underwent skin grafting and subsequent component separation closure. Successful fascial closure was achieved after 15.5 days +/- 10.2 days (range, 5-42 days). The skin was left open in half of the patients. There were four abdominal complications that were noted while the patch was in place. Three of four complications were related to the primary disease, and in the fourth complication the patch became infected and had to be removed. There were no eviscerations or enterocutaneous fistulas after primary fascial closure. The median length of stay was 28 days (Interquartile range, 14-39 days).
Conclusions: Use of the Wittmann Patch can achieve a high rate of delayed fascial closure in severe trauma and critically ill emergency surgery patients with open abdomens. Most of the complications associated with use of the patch were wound infections after fascial closure and closure of the skin.