Purpose: Combat injuries are more often associated with blast, penetrating, and high-energy mechanisms than civilian trauma, generating controversy about the management of combat colonic injury. Despite implementation of mandatory colostomy in World War II, recent civilian data suggest that primary repair without diversion is safe and feasible. This study describes the modern management of battle-related colonic injuries and seeks to determine whether management strategy affects early complications.
Methods: Records from the combat theater (downrange) and tertiary referral center in Germany were retrospectively reviewed from 2005 to 2006. Patient characteristics, management strategy, treatment course, and early complications were recorded. Comparison groups by management strategy were as follows: primary repair, diversion, and damage control.
Results: A total of 133 (97% male) patients sustained colonic injuries from penetrating (71%), blunt (5%), and blast (23%) mechanisms. Average injury severity score was 21 and length of stay in the referral center was 7.1 days. Injury distribution was 21% ascending, 21% descending, 15% transverse, 27% sigmoid, and 25% rectum. Downrange complications for primary repair, initial ostomy, and damage control groups were 14%, 15%, and 30%, respectively. On discharge from the center, 62% of patients had undergone a diversion. The complication rate was 18% overall and was unrelated to management strategy (P = .16). Multivariate analysis did not identify independent predictors of complications.
Conclusion: Early complications were similar by mechanism, anatomic location, severity of injury, and management strategy. More diversions were performed for rectosigmoid injury. Good surgical judgment allows for low morbidity and supports primary repair in selected cases. Damage control surgery is effective in a multinational theater of operations.