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July 1979

Diagnostic Errors With Peritoneal Lavage in Patients With Pelvic Fractures

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY 40506.

Arch Surg. 1979;114(7):844-846. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1979.01370310086015

• Diagnostic peritoneal lavage, considered to be a highly accurate technique for detecting intraperitoneal blood in the trauma patient, may be less reliable in the presence of a pelvic fracture. In a retrospective review of 222 patients with pelvic fractures, 61 patients were found who had had a diagnostic peritoneal lavage performed as part of the initial evaluation of their condition. Twenty-six of these patients had had a negative lavage result. There had been no false-negative results in this group, although six patients required operations for extraperitoneal injuries. Of the 35 patients with a positive lavage result, 10 (29%) were found to have false-positive lavage results with no intraperitoneal source of bleeding. The only deaths in this series occurred in the group requiring operations, eight of 41 (20%). Four of the eight deaths were due to uncontrollable bleeding that resulted from exploration of the retroperitoneal hematoma. These data suggest that a negative lavage result is highly reliable in the patient with a pelvic fracture and should allow management with confidence that there is no severe intraperitoneal injury. Positive lavage results, however, must be interpreted with caution.

(Arch Surg 114:844-846, 1979)