Critical care issues in managing complex open abdominal wound

J Intensive Care Med. May-Jun 2012;27(3):161-71. doi: 10.1177/0885066610396162. Epub 2011 Mar 24.


Over the past 30 years, surgical specialties have introduced and expanded the role of open abdominal management in complicated operative cases, necessitating an intensivist's understanding of the indications and unique intensive care unit (ICU) issues related to the open abdomen. When presented with the open abdomen, resuscitation to correct shock is of primary concern. This is accomplished by correction of hypothermia, acidosis, and coagulopathy in trauma and adequate resolution of intra-abdominal hypertension or source control in general surgery. These patients typically require deep sedation and often paralysis and benefit from low-volume ventilatory strategies to prevent and treat acute lung injury. Antibiotics must be tailored to the clinical situation, but in most cases, 24 hours of perioperative treatment is all that is required. In cases of gross contamination and peritonitis, a 5- to 7-day course of broad-spectrum antibiotics may be of benefit.Adequate source control has been demonstrated to have the greatest impact on outcome and when the patient's clinical milieu dictates, bedside washouts. Enteral nutrition should be instituted as early as possible after intestinal continuity has been reestablished. Additional protein is required to account for losses from the open abdomen. Reconstruction may require staging, but in general, should proceed following resolution of shock and control of sepsis. Elevated multiorgan dysfunction score, Acute Physiology And Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE II), and a rise in peak inspiratory pressure portend poor source control and could result in failure of fascial closure. If unable to proceed to fascial closure, then considerations should be made for planned ventral hernia and subsequent abdominal wall reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / surgery*
  • Abdominal Wound Closure Techniques*
  • Adult
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Deep Sedation
  • Emergency Treatment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Hypertension / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Time Factors