The Management of Abdominal Evisceration in Tactical Combat Casualty Care: TCCC Guideline Change 20-02

J Spec Oper Med. 2021 Winter;21(4):138-142. doi: 10.55460/9U6S-1K7M.


Historically, about 20% of hospitalized combat injured patients have an abdominal injury. Abdominal evisceration may be expected to complicate as many as one-third of battle-related abdominal wounds. The outcomes for casualties with eviscerating injuries may be significantly improved with appropriate prehospital management. While not as extensively studied as other forms of combat injury, abdominal evisceration management recommendations extend back to at least World War I, when it was recognized as a significant cause of morbidity and was especially associated with bayonet injury. More recently, abdominal evisceration has been noted as a frequent result of penetrating, ballistic trauma. Initial management of abdominal evisceration for prehospital providers consists of assessing for and controlling associated hemorrhage, assessing for bowel content leakage, covering the eviscerated abdominal contents with a moist, sterile barrier, and carefully reassessing the patient. Mortality in abdominal evisceration is more likely to be secondary to associated injuries than to the evisceration itself. Attempting to establish education, training, and a standard of care for nonmedical and medical first responders and to leverage current wound management technologies, the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) conducted a systematic review of historical Service guidelines and recent medical studies that include abdominal evisceration. For abdominal evisceration injuries, the following principles of management apply: (1) Control any associated bleeding visible in the wound. (2) If there is no evidence of spinal cord injury, allow the patient to take the position of most comfort. (3) Rinse the eviscerated bowel with clean fluid to reduce gross contamination. (4) Cover exposed bowel with a moist, sterile dressing or a sterile water-impermeable covering. It is important to keep the wound moist; irrigate the dressing with warm water if available. (4) For reduction in wounds that do not have a substantial loss of abdominal wall, a brief attempt may be made to replace/reduce the eviscerated abdominal contents. If the external contents do not easily go back into the abdominal cavity, do not force or spend more than 60 seconds attempting to reduce contents. If reduction of eviscerated contents is successful, reapproximate the skin using available material, preferably an adhesive dressing like a chest seal (other examples include safety pins, suture, staples, wound closure devices, etc.). Do not attempt to reduce bowel that is actively bleeding or leaking enteric contents. (6) If unable to reduce, cover the eviscerated organs with water-impermeable, nonadhesive material (transparent preferred to allow ability to reassess for ongoing bleeding; examples include a bowel bag, IV bag, clear food wrap, etc.), and then secure the impermeable dressing to the patient using an adhesive dressing (e.g., Ioban, chest seal). (7) Do NOT FORCE contents back into abdomen or actively bleeding viscera. (8) Death in the abdominally eviscerated patient is typically from associated injuries, such as concomitant solid organ or vascular injury, rather than from the evisceration itself. (9) Antibiotics should be administered for any open wounds, including abdominal eviscerating injuries. Parenteral ertapenem is the preferred antibiotic for these injuries.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries* / complications
  • Abdominal Injuries* / surgery
  • Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Humans
  • Military Medicine*
  • Thorax