Background: The role of primary repair (PR) of modern day war-related colon injuries remains controversial.
Methods: Retrospective review of medical records of combat-wounded soldiers with colon injuries sustained during March 2003 to August 2006 was conducted. Injuries were analyzed according to location: right (n = 30), transverse (n = 13), and left (n = 24) sided colon injuries. Two-tailed Fisher's Exact or chi tests were used for statistical analysis.
Results: Seventy-seven soldiers returned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center with colon injuries suffered during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Twelve patients with minor colon injuries were excluded. The remaining 65 patients (mean age, 28 +/- 7 years) sustained 67 colon injuries from secondary blast (n = 38); gunshot (n = 27); motor vehicle crash (n = 1) and crush injury (n = 1). Patients arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center 5 days (range, 2-16 days) after injury and damage control operations (n = 27, 42%), and were hospitalized for a median of 22 days (range, 1-306 days). Follow-up averaged 311 days (median, 198 days). PR was attempted in right (n = 18, 60%), transverse (n = 11, 85%), and left (n = 9, 38%) sided colon injuries. Delayed definitive treatment of colon injuries occurred in 42% of patients. Failure of repair occurred in 16% of patients and was more likely with concomitant pancreatic, stomach, splenic, diaphragm, and renal injuries. Overall morbidity for ostomy closure after primary ostomy formation was 30%, but increased to 75% for ostomy closure after primary anastomotic or repair failure.
Conclusions: PR of war-related colon injuries can be performed safely in selected circumstances in the absence of concomitant organ injury. Delayed anastomosis can often be performed after damage control operations once the patient stabilizes. Ostomy closure complications are more likely after anastomotic failure.