Background: Abdominal injuries occur relatively infrequently during trauma, and they rarely require surgical intervention. In this era of non-operative management of abdominal injuries, surgeons are seldom exposed to these patients. Consequently, surgeons may misinterpret the mechanism of injury, underestimate symptoms and radiologic findings, and delay definite treatment. Here, we determined the incidence, diagnosis, and treatment of traumatic abdominal injuries at our hospital to provide a basis for identifying potential hazards in non-operative management of patients with these injuries in a low trauma volume hospital.
Methods: This retrospective study included prehospital and in-hospital assessments of 110 patients that received 147 abdominal injuries from an isolated abdominal trauma (n = 70 patients) or during multiple trauma (n = 40 patients). Patients were primarily treated at the University Hospital of Umeå from January 2000 to December 2009.
Results: The median New Injury Severity Score was 9 (range: 1-57) for 147 abdominal injuries. Most patients (94%) received computed tomography (CT), but only 38% of patients with multiple trauma were diagnosed with CT < 60 min after emergency room arrival. Penetrating trauma caused injuries in seven patients. Solid organ injuries constituted 78% of abdominal injuries. Non-operative management succeeded in 82 patients. Surgery was performed for 28 patients, either immediately (n = 17) as result of operative management or later (n = 11), due to non-operative management failure; the latter mainly occurred with hollow viscus injuries. Patients with multiple abdominal injuries, whether associated with multiple trauma or an isolated abdominal trauma, had significantly more non-operative failures than patients with a single abdominal injury. One death occurred within 30 days.
Conclusions: Non-operative management of patients with abdominal injuries, except for hollow viscus injuries, was highly successful in our low trauma volume hospital, even though surgeons receive low exposure to these patients. However, a growing proportion of surgeons lack experience in decision-making and performing trauma laparotomies. Quality assurance programmes must be emphasized to ensure future competence and quality of trauma care at low trauma volume hospitals.