Medscape is available in 5 Language Editions – Choose your Edition here.


Abdominal Stab Wound Exploration Periprocedural Care

  • Author: Juan L Poggio, MD, MS, FACS, FASCRS; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
Updated: Jul 11, 2016


The list of equipment is as follows:

  • Adequate light source or operating lamp
  • Sterile gloves
  • Surgical masks
  • Surgical caps
  • Protective eyewear
  • Sterile gowns
  • Sterile drapes
  • Cleaning solution (10% povidone iodine [Betadine] or other suitable solution)
  • Lidocaine hydrochloride (1%) with epinephrine
  • Gauze swabs
  • Suture material (See Technique for suggestion of suture material.)
  • Wound dressing
  • Washout irrigant (1 L of 0.9% NaCl)
  • Scalpel handle
  • Blades, 2
  • Retractors, 2
  • Dissecting forceps (toothed and untoothed)
  • Needle holder
  • Scissors (curved dissecting and stitch scissors)
  • Hemostats, 5
  • Diathermy may be used, if available. Diathermy assists with achieving hemostasis.
    Equipment required for an abdominal stab wound expEquipment required for an abdominal stab wound exploration.

Patient Preparation


Local anesthesia is used. Use local anesthesia liberally, as patient comfort is essential. The procedure requires patient compliance and adequate anesthesia. Hemostasis is also important. The authors’ suggested preparation is 1% lidocaine hydrochloride (10 mg/mL) with epinephrine 1:200,000 (5 mcg/mL). Other preparations can be used. The maximum dose of lidocaine combined with epinephrine is 7 mg/kg, up to 500 mg.

Local exploration in uncooperative patients is best performed in the operating room under general anesthesia.

For more information, see Infiltrative Administration of Local Anesthetic Agents.


The patient is positioned supine. Adequate exposure of the abdomen is essential. Abdominal stab wound exploration can be effectively performed in the emergency department.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Juan L Poggio, MD, MS, FACS, FASCRS Associate Professor of Surgery, Director of Robotic Colon and Rectal Surgery, Division of Colorectal Surgery, Department of Surgery, Drexel University College of Medicine

Juan L Poggio, MD, MS, FACS, FASCRS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.



Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Luis M Lovato, MD Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Director of Critical Care, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Luis M Lovato, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Erik D Schraga, MD Staff Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mills-Peninsula Emergency Medical Associates

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Richard B Lawson, MB, BCh, FCA MMed(Anaesthesia), Specialist Anesthesiologist, Dunkeld Anaesthetic Practice, Johannesburg, South Africa

Richard B Lawson, MB, BCh, FCA is a member of the following medical societies: South African Medical Association, South African Society of Anaesthesiologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.



Hannah Swart, Switch Design, South Africa, for the illustrations.

Johannesburg Hospital Trauma Unit, for assistance in obtaining material for the article.

Jacques Goosen, MB, ChB, (PRET), FCSSA Principal Surgeon and Head, Trauma Unit, Johannesburg Hospital and University of the Witwatersrand

  1. Cayton CG, Nassoura ZE. Abdomen. Ivatury RR, Cayton CG. Textbook of Penetrating Trauma. Chap 24. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1996. 281-99.

  2. Lee WC, Uddo JF Jr, Nance FC. Surgical judgment in the management of abdominal stab wounds. Utilizing clinical criteria from a 10-year experience. Ann Surg. 1984 May. 199(5):549-54. [Medline].

  3. Shaftan GW. Indications for operation in abdominal trauma. Am J Surg. 1960 May. 99:657-64. [Medline].

  4. Sanei B, Mahmoudieh M, Talebzadeh H, Shahabi Shahmiri S, Aghaei Z. Do patients with penetrating abdominal stab wounds require laparotomy?. Arch Trauma Res. 2013 Spring. 2(1):21-5. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  5. Paydar S, Salahi R, Izadifard F, Jaafari Z, Abbasi HR, Eshraghian A, et al. Comparison of conservative management and laparotomy in the management of stable patients with abdominal stab wound. Am J Emerg Med. 2011 Nov 17. [Medline].

  6. Berardoni NE, Kopelman TR, O'Neill PJ, August DL, Vail SJ, Pieri PG, et al. Use of computed tomography in the initial evaluation of anterior abdominal stab wounds. Am J Surg. 2011 Dec. 202(6):690-6. [Medline].

  7. Feliciano DV, Bitondo CG, Steed G, Mattox KL, Burch JM, Jordan GL Jr. Five hundred open taps or lavages in patients with abdominal stab wounds. Am J Surg. 1984 Dec. 148(6):772-7. [Medline].

  8. Cothren CC, Moore EE, Warren FA, Kashuk JL, Biffl WL, Johnson JL. Local wound exploration remains a valuable triage tool for the evaluation of anterior abdominal stab wounds. Am J Surg. 2009 Aug. 198(2):223-6. [Medline].

  9. Leppäniemi AK, Voutilainen PE, Haapiainen RK. Indications for early mandatory laparotomy in abdominal stab wounds. Br J Surg. 1999 Jan. 86(1):76-80. [Medline].

  10. Biffl WL, Kaups KL, Cothren CC, Brasel KJ, Dicker RA, Bullard MK. Management of patients with anterior abdominal stab wounds: a Western Trauma Association multicenter trial. J Trauma. 2009 May. 66(5):1294-301. [Medline].

  11. Markovchick VJ, Moore EE, Moore J, Rosen P. Local wound exploration of anterior abdominal stab wounds. J Emerg Med. 1985. 2(4):287-91. [Medline].

  12. Thal ER. Evaluation of peritoneal lavage and local exploration in lower chest and abdominal stab wounds. J Trauma. 1977 Aug. 17(8):642-8. [Medline].

  13. Sugrue M, Balogh Z, Lynch J, Bardsley J, Sisson G, Weigelt J. Guidelines for the management of haemodynamically stable patients with stab wounds to the anterior abdomen. ANZ J Surg. 2007 Aug. 77(8):614-20. [Medline].

  14. Barry P, Shakeshaft J, Studd R. Abdominal Injuries. Sherry E, Templeton J, Trieu L, eds. Trauma. New York: Oxford University; 2003. 213-26.

  15. Thal ER. Commentary. Ivatury RR, Cayton CG, eds. Textbook of Penetrating Trauma. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1996. 307-8.

  16. Oreskovich MR, Carrico CJ. Stab wounds of the anterior abdomen. Analysis of a management plan using local wound exploration and quantitative peritoneal lavage. Ann Surg. 1983 Oct. 198(4):411-9. [Medline].

  17. Burnweit CA, Thal ER. Significance of omental evisceration in abdominal stab wounds. Am J Surg. 1986 Dec. 152(6):670-3. [Medline].

  18. Nagy K, Roberts R, Joseph K, An G, Barrett J. Evisceration after abdominal stab wounds: is laparotomy required?. J Trauma. 1999 Oct. 47(4):622-4; discussion 624-6. [Medline].

  19. Nicholson K, Inaba K, Skiada D, Okoye O, Lam L, Grabo D, et al. Management of patients with evisceration after abdominal stab wounds. Am Surg. 2014 Oct. 80(10):984-8. [Medline].

  20. Demetriades D, Rabinowitz B. Indications for operation in abdominal stab wounds. A prospective study of 651 patients. Ann Surg. 1987 Feb. 205(2):129-32. [Medline].

  21. Arikan S, Kocakusak A, Yucel AF, Adas G. A prospective comparison of the selective observation and routine exploration methods for penetrating abdominal stab wounds with organ or omentum evisceration. J Trauma. 2005 Mar. 58(3):526-32. [Medline].

  22. Como JJ, Bokhari F, Chiu WC, Duane TM, Holevar MR, Tandoh MA. Practice management guidelines for selective nonoperative management of penetrating abdominal trauma. J Trauma. 2010 Mar. 68(3):721-33. [Medline].

  23. Bautz PC. Management of stab wounds in South Africa. ANZ J Surg. 2007 Aug. 77(8):611-2. [Medline].

  24. Jansen JO, Inaba K, Rizoli SB, Boffard KD, Demetriades D. Selective non-operative management of penetrating abdominal injury in Great Britain and Ireland: Survey of practice. Injury. 2011 Apr 27. [Medline].

  25. Rezende-Neto JB, Vieira HM Jr, Rodrigues Bde L, Rizoli S, Nascimento B, Fraga GP. Management of stab wounds to the anterior abdominal wall. Rev Col Bras Cir. 2014 Jan-Feb. 41(1):75-9. [Medline].

  26. Rosemurgy AS 2nd, Albrink MH, Olson SM, Sherman H, Albertini J, Kramer R. Abdominal stab wound protocol: prospective study documents applicability for widespread use. Am Surg. 1995 Feb. 61(2):112-6. [Medline].

  27. Thompson JS, Moore EE, Van Duzer-Moore S, Moore JB, Galloway AC. The evolution of abdominal stab wound management. J Trauma. 1980 Jun. 20(6):478-84. [Medline].

  28. American College of Surgeons. Abdominal Trauma. Advanced Trauma Life Support for Doctors: Student Course Manual. 6th ed. Chicago Ill: American College of Surgeons; 1997. 167.

  29. Gonzalez RP, Turk B, Falimirski ME, Holevar MR. Abdominal stab wounds: diagnostic peritoneal lavage criteria for emergency room discharge. J Trauma. 2001 Nov. 51(5):939-43. [Medline].

  30. Wilson RF, Walt AJ. General Considerations in Abdominal Trauma. Wilson RF, Walt AJ, eds. Management of Trauma: Pitfalls and Practice. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1996. 411-31/20.

  31. Thacker LK, Parks J, Thal ER. Diagnostic peritoneal lavage: is 100,000 RBCs a valid figure for penetrating abdominal trauma?. J Trauma. 2007 Apr. 62(4):853-7. [Medline].

  32. Nagy KK, Roberts RR, Joseph KT, Smith RF, An GC, Bokhari F. Experience with over 2500 diagnostic peritoneal lavages. Injury. 2000 Sep. 31(7):479-82. [Medline].

  33. Cha JY, Kashuk JL, Sarin EL, Cothren CC, Johnson JL, Biffl WL. Diagnostic peritoneal lavage remains a valuable adjunct to modern imaging techniques. J Trauma. 2009 Aug. 67(2):330-4; discussion 334-6. [Medline].

  34. Enderson BL, Maull KI. Missed injuries. The trauma surgeon's nemesis. Surg Clin North Am. 1991 Apr. 71(2):399-418. [Medline].

  35. Bull JC Jr, Mathewson C Jr. Exploratory laparotomy in patients with penetrating wounds of the abdomen. Am J Surg. 1968 Aug. 116(2):223-8. [Medline].

  36. Alzamel HA, Cohn SM. When is it safe to discharge asymptomatic patients with abdominal stab wounds?. J Trauma. 2005 Mar. 58(3):523-5. [Medline].

  37. Tsikitis V, Biffl WL, Majercik S, Harrington DT, Cioffi WG. Selective clinical management of anterior abdominal stab wounds. Am J Surg. 2004 Dec. 188(6):807-12. [Medline].

  38. Navsaria PH, Berli JU, Edu S, Nicol AJ. Non-operative management of abdominal stab wounds--an analysis of 186 patients. S Afr J Surg. 2007 Nov. 45(4):128-30, 132. [Medline].

  39. Clarke DL, Allorto NL, Thomson SR. An audit of failed non-operative management of abdominal stab wounds. Injury. 2010 May. 41(5):488-91. [Medline].

  40. Martin RR, Burch JM, Richardson R, Mattox KL. Outcome for delayed operation of penetrating colon injuries. J Trauma. 1991 Dec. 31(12):1591-5. [Medline].

  41. Plackett TP, Fleurat J, Putty B, Demetriades D, Plurad D. Selective nonoperative management of anterior abdominal stab wounds: 1992-2008. J Trauma. 2011 Feb. 70(2):408-13; discussion 413-4. [Medline].

  42. Aragón GE, Eiseman B. Abdominal stab wounds: evaluation of sinography. J Trauma. 1976 Oct. 16(10):792-7. [Medline].

  43. Demetriades D, Hadjizacharia P, Constantinou C, Brown C, Inaba K, Rhee P. Selective nonoperative management of penetrating abdominal solid organ injuries. Ann Surg. 2006 Oct. 244(4):620-8. [Medline].

  44. Salim A, Sangthong B, Martin M, Brown C, Plurad D, Inaba K. Use of computed tomography in anterior abdominal stab wounds: results of a prospective study. Arch Surg. 2006 Aug. 141(8):745-50; discussion 750-2. [Medline].

  45. Rehm CG, Sherman R, Hinz TW. The role of CT scan in evaluation for laparotomy in patients with stab wounds of the abdomen. J Trauma. 1989 Apr. 29(4):446-50. [Medline].

  46. Weinberg JA, Magnotti LJ, Edwards NM, Claridge JA, Minard G, Fabian TC. "Awake" laparoscopy for the evaluation of equivocal penetrating abdominal wounds. Injury. 2007 Jan. 38(1):60-4. [Medline].

  47. Lin HF, Wu JM, Tu CC, Chen HA, Shih HC. Value of diagnostic and therapeutic laparoscopy for abdominal stab wounds. World J Surg. 2010 Jul. 34(7):1653-62. [Medline].

  48. Leppäniemi A, Haapiainen R. Diagnostic laparoscopy in abdominal stab wounds: a prospective, randomized study. J Trauma. 2003 Oct. 55(4):636-45. [Medline].

  49. Soffer D, McKenney MG, Cohn S, Garcia-Roca R, Namias N, Schulman C. A prospective evaluation of ultrasonography for the diagnosis of penetrating torso injury. J Trauma. 2004 May. 56(5):953-7; discussion 957-9. [Medline].

  50. Blackbourne LH, Soffer D, McKenney M, Amortegui J, Schulman CI, Crookes B. Secondary ultrasound examination increases the sensitivity of the FAST exam in blunt trauma. J Trauma. 2004 Nov. 57(5):934-8. [Medline].

  51. Udobi KF, Rodriguez A, Chiu WC, Scalea TM. Role of ultrasonography in penetrating abdominal trauma: a prospective clinical study. J Trauma. 2001 Mar. 50(3):475-9. [Medline].

  52. Murphy JT, Hall J, Provost D. Fascial ultrasound for evaluation of anterior abdominal stab wound injury. J Trauma. 2005 Oct. 59(4):843-6. [Medline].

  53. Ertekin C, Yanar H, Taviloglu K, Güloglu R, Alimoglu O. Unnecessary laparotomy by using physical examination and different diagnostic modalities for penetrating abdominal stab wounds. Emerg Med J. 2005 Nov. 22(11):790-4. [Medline].

  54. Petersen SR, Sheldon GF. Morbidity of a negative finding at laparotomy in abdominal trauma. Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1979 Jan. 148(1):23-6. [Medline].

  55. Ertan T, Sevim Y, Sarigoz T, Topuz O, Tastan B. Benefits of CT tractography in evaluation of anterior abdominal stab wounds. Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Sep. 33 (9):1188-90. [Medline].

  56. Ahmed BA, Matheny ME, Rice PL, Clarke JR, Ogunyemi OI. A comparison of methods for assessing penetrating trauma on retrospective multi-center data. J Biomed Inform. 2009 Apr. 42(2):308-16. [Medline].

Transverse section of the anterior abdominal wall above the arcuate line.
Transverse section of the anterior abdominal wall below the arcuate line.
Boundaries of the anterior abdominal wall.
Stab wound to the anterior abdomen.
Equipment required for an abdominal stab wound exploration.
Sterile field.
Anesthetize the wound.
Midline wound: Extend vertically.
Lateral wound: Extend horizontally.
Visualize depths of the wound and maintain hemostasis.
Explore under direct vision.
Nonpenetrating wound: External oblique muscle intact in base of wound.
Penetrating midline wound.
Penetrating lateral wound. (The exploration of this wound clearly determined that the stomach had been penetrated. Therefore, the patient did not require diagnostic peritoneal lavage [DPL], as laparotomy was already indicated. During laparotomy, a hole in the stomach and 2 holes in the small bowel were repaired. The patient had an uneventful postoperative course and was discharged from the hospital 3 days later.)
Suture wound in layers. (This patient sustained a nonpenetrating stab wound to the abdomen. After the wound was repaired, the patient was discharged from the emergency department, and routine follow-up wound care was arranged with the local clinic.)
Selecting candidates for laparotomy
All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.