Do Patients with Penetrating Abdominal Stab Wounds Require Laparotomy?


Department of Surgery, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, IR Iran



The optimal management of hemodynamically stable asymptomatic patients with anterior abdominal stab wounds (AASWs) remains controversial. The goal is to identify and treat injuries in a safe cost-effective manner. Common evaluation strategies are local wound exploration (LWE), diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL), serial clinical assessment (SCAs) and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Making a decision about the right time to operate on a patient with a penetrating abdominal stab wound, especially those who have visceral evisceration, is a continuing challenge.

Until the year 2010, our strategy was emergency laparotomy in patients with penetrating anterior fascia and those with visceral evisceration. This survey was conducted towards evaluating the results of emergency laparotomy. So, better management can be done in patients with penetrating abdominal stab wounds.

Patients and Methods
This retrospective cross-sectional study was performed on patients with abdominal penetrating trauma who referred to Al- Zahra hospital in Isfahan, Iran from October 2000 to October 2010. It should be noted that patients with abdominal blunt trauma, patients under 14 years old, those with lateral abdomen penetrating trauma and patients who had unstable hemodynamic status were excluded from the study. Medical records of patients were reviewed and demographic and clinical data were collected for all patients including: age, sex, mechanism of trauma and the results of LWE and laparotomy. Data were analyzed with PASW v.20 software. All data were expressed as mean ± SD. The distribution of nominal variables was compared using the Chi-squared test. Also diagnostic index for LWE were calculated. A two-sided P value less than 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.

During the 10 year period of the study, 1100 consecutive patients with stab wounds were admitted to Al-Zahra hospital Isfahan, Iran. In total, about 150 cases had penetrating traumas in the anterior abdomen area. Sixty-three (42%) patients were operated immediately due to shock, visceral evisceration or aspiration of blood via a nasogastric tube on admission. Organ injury was seen in 78% of patients with visceral evisceration. Among these 87 cases, 29 patients’ (33.3%) anterior fascia was not penetrated in LWE. So, they were observed for several hours and discharged from the hospital without surgery. While for the remaining 58 patients (66.6%), whose LWE detected penetration of anterior abdominal fascia, laparotomy was performed which showed visceral injuries in 11 (18%) cases.

All in all, 82 percent of laparotomies in patients with penetrated anterior abdominal fascia without visceral evisceration, who had no signs of peritoneal irritation, were negative. So, we recommended further evaluation in these patients. However, visceral evisceration is an indication for exploratory laparotomy, since in our study; the majority of patients had organ damages.