August 1991

Prediction of Injury Caused by Penetrating Wounds to the Abdomen, Flank, and Back

Author Affiliations

From the Indiana University Regional Trauma Center and Wishard Memorial Hospital, Indianapolis, Ind.

Arch Surg. 1991;126(8):962-966. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1991.01410320044004

• Controversy about the appropriate evaluation of penetrating abdominal, flank, and back injuries prompted this retrospective review of 311 patients at an urban level I trauma center over 5 years. Seventy-five (24%) patients sustained gunshot wounds to the abdomen. All patients with gunshot wounds underwent exploratory laparotomy; results of 67 laparotomies (89%) were positive. Of 236 patients sustaining stab wounds (140 abdominal wounds, 51 flank wounds, 26 back wounds, and 19 wounds to multiple sites), 147 were treated according to a selective protocol, based on results of physical examination, wound exploration, peritoneal lavage, and ancillary diagnostic studies. No injuries were found at celiotomy in three (2%) of these 147 patients. One false-negative result of evaluation of a flank wound occurred. Significant injuries were found in 13 patients (68%) with stab wounds to multiple sites, 61 patients (44%) with abdominal stab wounds, 15 patients (29%) with flank stab wounds, and four patients (15%) with back stab wounds. Mandatory exploration of gunshot wounds is justified. Physical findings of intra-abdominal injury or positive results of peritoneal lavage identify stab wound victims likely to benefit from surgical exploration. A policy of mandatory observation or routine celiotomy for treatment of stab wounds is not justified.

(Arch Surg. 1991;126:962-966)