Damage control surgery for abdominal emergencies

Br J Surg. 2014 Jan;101(1):e109-18. doi: 10.1002/bjs.9360. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


Background: Damage control surgery is a management sequence initiated to reduce the risk of death in severely injured patients presenting with physiological derangement. Damage control principles have emerged as an approach in non-trauma abdominal emergencies in order to reduce mortality compared with primary definitive surgery.

Methods: A PubMed/MEDLINE literature review was conducted of data available over the past decade (up to August 2013) to gain information on current understanding of damage control surgery for abdominal surgical emergencies. Future directions for research are discussed.

Results: Damage control surgery facilitates a strategy for life-saving intervention for critically ill patients by abbreviated laparotomy with subsequent reoperation for delayed definitive repair after physiological resuscitation. The six-phase strategy (including damage control resuscitation in phase 0) is similar to that for severely injured patients, although non-trauma indications include shock from uncontrolled haemorrhage or sepsis. Minimal evidence exists to validate the benefit of damage control surgery in general surgical abdominal emergencies. The collective published experience over the past decade is limited to 16 studies including a total of 455 (range 3-99) patients, of which the majority are retrospective case series. However, the concept has widespread acceptance by emergency surgeons, and appears a logical extension from pathophysiological principles in trauma to haemorrhage and sepsis. The benefits of this strategy depend on careful patient selection. Damage control surgery has been performed for a wide range of indications, but most frequently for uncontrolled bleeding during elective surgery, haemorrhage from complicated gastroduodenal ulcer disease, generalized peritonitis, acute mesenteric ischaemia and other sources of intra-abdominal sepsis.

Conclusion: Damage control surgery is employed in a wide range of abdominal emergencies and is an increasingly recognized life-saving tactic in emergency surgery performed on physiologically deranged patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Cavity / surgery*
  • Blood Loss, Surgical / prevention & control
  • Cholecystectomy / methods
  • Cholecystitis, Acute / surgery
  • Duodenal Ulcer / surgery
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Perforation / surgery
  • Intraabdominal Infections / surgery
  • Ischemia / surgery
  • Megacolon, Toxic / surgery
  • Mesenteric Ischemia
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy / adverse effects
  • Patient Selection
  • Peptic Ulcer Hemorrhage / surgery
  • Peritonitis / surgery
  • Sepsis / surgery
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / surgery
  • Stomach Ulcer / surgery
  • Vascular Diseases / surgery