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Abdominal Trauma Revisited

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Although abdominal trauma has been described since antiquity, formal laparotomies for trauma were not performed until the 1800s. Even with the introduction of general anesthesia in the United States during the years 1842 to 1846, laparotomies for abdominal trauma were not performed during the Civil War. The first laparotomy for an abdominal gunshot wound in the United States was finally performed in New York City in 1884. An aggressive operative approach to all forms of abdominal trauma till the establishment of formal trauma centers (where data were analyzed) resulted in extraordinarily high rates of nontherapeutic laparotomies from the 1880s to the 1960s. More selective operative approaches to patients with abdominal stab wounds (1960s), blunt trauma (1970s), and gunshot wounds (1990s) were then developed. Current adjuncts to the diagnosis of abdominal trauma when serial physical examinations are unreliable include the following: 1) diagnostic peritoneal tap/lavage, 2) surgeon-performed ultrasound examination; 3) contrast-enhanced CT of the abdomen and pelvis; and 4) diagnostic laparoscopy. Operative techniques for injuries to the liver, spleen, duodenum, and pancreas have been refined considerably since World War II. These need to be emphasized repeatedly in an era when fewer patients undergo laparotomy for abdominal trauma. Finally, abdominal trauma damage control is a valuable operative approach in patients with physiologic exhaustion and multiple injuries.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Clinical Professor of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine/Shock Trauma Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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