Blunt Abdominal Trauma 

Updated: Jan 02, 2019
Author: Eric L Legome, MD; Chief Editor: John Geibel, MD, MSc, DSc, AGAF 

Overview

Practice Essentials

Blunt abdominal trauma (see the image below) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among all age groups. Identification of serious intra-abdominal pathology is often challenging; many injuries may not manifest during the initial assessment and treatment period.

Blunt abdominal trauma. Right kidney injury with b Blunt abdominal trauma. Right kidney injury with blood in perirenal space. Injury resulted from high-speed motor vehicle collision.

Signs and symptoms

The initial clinical assessment of patients with blunt abdominal trauma is often difficult and notably inaccurate. The most reliable signs and symptoms in alert patients are as follows:

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage

  • Hypovolemia

  • Evidence of peritoneal irritation

However, large amounts of blood can accumulate in the peritoneal and pelvic cavities without any significant or early changes in the physical examination findings. Bradycardia may indicate the presence of free intraperitoneal blood.

On physical examination, the following injury patterns predict the potential for intra-abdominal trauma:

  • Lap belt marks: Correlate with small intestine rupture

  • Steering wheel–shaped contusions

  • Ecchymosis involving the flanks (Grey Turner sign) or the umbilicus (Cullen sign): Indicates retroperitoneal hemorrhage, but is usually delayed for several hours to days

  • Abdominal distention

  • Auscultation of bowel sounds in the thorax: May indicate a diaphragmatic injury

  • Abdominal bruit: May indicate underlying vascular disease or traumatic arteriovenous fistula

  • Local or generalized tenderness, guarding, rigidity, or rebound tenderness: Suggests peritoneal injury

  • Fullness and doughy consistency on palpation: May indicate intra-abdominal hemorrhage

  • Crepitation or instability of the lower thoracic cage: Indicates the potential for splenic or hepatic injuries

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.

Diagnosis

Assessment of hemodynamic stability is the most important initial concern in the evaluation of a patient with blunt abdominal trauma. In the hemodynamically unstable patient, a rapid evaluation for hemoperitoneum can be accomplished by means of diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) or the focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST). Radiographic studies of the abdomen are indicated in stable patients when the physical examination findings are inconclusive.

Diagnostic peritoneal lavage

DPL is indicated for the following patients in the setting of blunt trauma:

  • Patients with a spinal cord injury

  • Those with multiple injuries and unexplained shock

  • Obtunded patients with a possible abdominal injury

  • Intoxicated patients in whom abdominal injury is suggested

  • Patients with potential intra-abdominal injury who will undergo prolonged anesthesia for another procedure

FAST

Bedside ultrasonography is a rapid, portable, noninvasive, and accurate examination that can be performed by emergency clinicians and trauma surgeons to detect hemoperitoneum.

The current FAST examination protocol consists of 4 acoustic windows (pericardiac, perihepatic, perisplenic, pelvic) with the patient supine.

An examination is interpreted as positive if free fluid is found in any of the 4 acoustic windows, negative if no fluid is seen, and indeterminate if any of the windows cannot be adequately assessed.

Computed tomography

Computed tomography is the standard for detecting solid organ injuries. CT scans provide excellent imaging of the pancreas, duodenum, and genitourinary system.

CT scanning often provides the most detailed images of traumatic pathology and may assist in determination of operative intervention[1, 2, 3, 4] Unlike DPL or FAST, CT can determine the source of hemorrhage.

See Workup for more detail.

Management

Treatment of blunt abdominal trauma begins at the scene of the injury and is continued upon the patient’s arrival at the ED or trauma center. Management may involve nonoperative measures or surgical treatment, as appropriate.

Indications for laparotomy in a patient with blunt abdominal injury include the following:

  • Signs of peritonitis

  • Uncontrolled shock or hemorrhage

  • Clinical deterioration during observation

  • Hemoperitoneum findings on FAST or DPL

Nonoperative management

In blunt abdominal trauma, including severe solid organ injuries, selective nonoperative management has become the standard of care. Nonoperative management strategies are based on CT scan diagnosis and the hemodynamic stability of the patient, as follows:

  • For the most part, pediatric patients can be resuscitated and treated nonoperatively; some pediatric surgeons often transfuse up to 40 mL/kg of blood products in an effort to stabilize a pediatric patient

  • Hemodynamically stable adults with solid organ injuries, primarily those to the liver and spleen, may be candidates for nonoperative management

  • Splenic artery embolotherapy, although not standard of care, may be used for adult blunt splenic injury

  • Nonoperative management involves closely monitoring vital signs and frequently repeating the physical examination

See Treatment and Medication for more detail.

Pathophysiology

Intra-abdominal injuries secondary to blunt force are attributed to collisions between the injured person and the external environment and to acceleration or deceleration forces acting on the person’s internal organs. Blunt force injuries to the abdomen can generally be explained by 3 mechanisms.

The first mechanism is deceleration. Rapid deceleration causes differential movement among adjacent structures. As a result, shear forces are created and cause hollow, solid, visceral organs and vascular pedicles to tear, especially at relatively fixed points of attachment. For example, the distal aorta is attached to the thoracic spine and decelerates much more quickly than the relatively mobile aortic arch. As a result, shear forces in the aorta may cause it to rupture. Similar situations can occur at the renal pedicles and at the cervicothoracic junction of the spinal cord.

Classic deceleration injuries include hepatic tear along the ligamentum teres and intimal injuries to the renal arteries. As bowel loops travel from their mesenteric attachments, thrombosis and mesenteric tears, with resultant splanchnic vessel injuries, can result.

The second mechanism involves crushing. Intra-abdominal contents are crushed between the anterior abdominal wall and the vertebral column or posterior thoracic cage. This produces a crushing effect, to which solid viscera (eg, spleen, liver, kidneys) are especially vulnerable.

The third mechanism is external compression, whether from direct blows or from external compression against a fixed object (eg, lap belt, spinal column). External compressive forces result in a sudden and dramatic rise in intra-abdominal pressure and culminate in rupture of a hollow viscous organ (ie, in accordance with the principles of Boyle law).

The liver and spleen seem to be the most frequently injured organs, though reports vary. The small and large intestines are the next most frequently injured organs. Recent studies show an increased number of hepatic injuries, perhaps reflecting increased use of CT scanning and concomitant identification of more injuries.

Etiology

Vehicular trauma is by far the leading cause of blunt abdominal trauma in the civilian population. Auto-to-auto and auto-to-pedestrian collisions have been cited as causes in 50-75% of cases. Other common etiologies include falls and industrial or recreational accidents. Rare causes of blunt abdominal injuries include iatrogenic trauma during cardiopulmonary resuscitation, manual thrusts to clear an airway, and the Heimlich maneuver.

Background

The care of the trauma patient is demanding and requires speed and efficiency. Evaluating patients who have sustained blunt abdominal trauma remains one of the most challenging and resource-intensive aspects of acute trauma care.[5, 6]

Blunt abdominal trauma is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among all age groups. Identification of serious intra-abdominal pathology is often challenging. Many injuries may not manifest during the initial assessment and treatment period. Missed intra-abdominal injuries and concealed hemorrhage are frequent causes of increased morbidity and mortality, especially in patients who survive the initial phase after an injury.

Physical examination findings are notoriously unreliable. One reason is that mechanisms of injury often result in other associated injuries that may divert the physician’s attention from potentially life-threatening intra-abdominal pathology. Other common reasons are an altered mental state and drug and alcohol intoxication.

Coordinating a trauma resuscitation demands a thorough understanding of the pathophysiology of trauma and shock, excellent clinical and diagnostic acumen, skill with complex procedures, compassion, and the ability to think rationally in a chaotic milieu.

Blunt abdominal trauma usually results from motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), assaults, recreational accidents, or falls. The most commonly injured organs are the spleen, liver, retroperitoneum, small bowel, kidneys (see the image below), bladder, colorectum, diaphragm, and pancreas. Men tend to be affected slightly more often than women.

Blunt abdominal trauma. Right kidney injury with b Blunt abdominal trauma. Right kidney injury with blood in perirenal space. Injury resulted from high-speed motor vehicle collision.

For more information, see the following:

  • Pediatric Abdominal Trauma

  • Penetrating Abdominal Trauma

  • Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST)

  • Abdominal Vascular Injuries

Anatomy

The abdomen can be arbitrarily divided into 4 areas. The first is the intrathoracic abdomen, which is the portion of the upper abdomen that lies beneath the rib cage. Its contents include the diaphragm, liver, spleen, and stomach. The rib cage makes this area inaccessible to palpation and complete examination.

The second is the pelvic abdomen, which is defined by the bony pelvis. Its contents include the urinary bladder, urethra, rectum, small intestine, and, in females, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Injury to these structures may be extraperitoneal in nature and therefore difficult to diagnose.

The third is the retroperitoneal abdomen, which contains the kidneys, ureters, pancreas, aorta, and vena cava. Injuries to these structures are very difficult to diagnose on the basis of physical examination findings. Evaluation of the structures in this region may require computed tomography (CT) scanning, angiography, and intravenous pyelography (IVP).

The fourth is the true abdomen, which contains the small and large intestines, the uterus (if gravid), and the bladder (when distended). Perforation of these organs is associated with significant physical findings and usually manifests with pain and tenderness from peritonitis. Plain x-ray films are helpful if free air is present. Additionally, diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) is a useful adjunct.

Epidemiology

United States statistics

By nearly every measure, injury ranks as one of the most pressing health issues in the United States. More than 150,000 people die each year as a result of injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, fires, falls, drowning, poisoning, suicide, and homicide. Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for US children and young adults.

According to the 2000 statistics from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, trauma (unintentional and intentional) was the leading cause of death in persons aged 1-44 years. Further review of the data reveals that in those aged 15-25 years, 14,113 persons died from unintentional injuries, 73% of which were related to vehicular trauma. In individuals aged 25-34 years, 57% of the 11,769 deaths reported were from motor vehicle collisions.

In 2001, approximately 30 million people visited emergency departments (EDs) for the treatment of nonfatal injuries, and more than 72,000 people were disabled by injuries. Injury imposes exceptional costs, both in health care dollars and in human losses, to society.

The true frequency of blunt abdominal trauma, however, is unknown. Data collected from trauma centers reflect patients who are transported to or seek care at these centers; these data may not reflect patients presenting to other facilities. The incidence of out-of-hospital deaths is unknown.

One review from the National Pediatric Trauma Registry by Cooper et al reported that 8% of patients (total=25,301) had abdominal injuries. Eighty-three percent of those injuries were from blunt mechanisms. Automobile-related injuries accounted for 59% of those injuries.[7] Similar reviews from adult trauma databases reflect that blunt trauma is the leading cause of intra-abdominal injury and that MVC is the leading mode of injury. Blunt injuries account for approximately two thirds of all injuries.

Hollow viscus trauma is more frequent in the presence of an associated, severe, solid organ injury, particularly to the pancreas. Approximately two thirds of patients with hollow viscus trauma are injured in MVCs.

International statistics

In 1990, approximately 5 million people died worldwide as a result of injury. The risk of death from injury varied strongly by region, age, and sex. Approximately 2 male deaths due to violence were reported for every female death. Injuries accounted for approximately 12.5% of all male deaths, compared with 7.4% of female deaths.

Globally, injury accounts for 10% of all deaths; however, injuries in sub-Saharan Africa are far more destructive than in other areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, the risk of death from trauma is highest in those aged 15-60 years, and the proportion of such deaths from trauma is higher than in any other region of the world. South Africa, for instance, has a traffic death rate per unit of distance traveled that is surpassed only by those of Korea, Kenya, and Morocco.

Estimates indicate that by 2020, 8.4 million people will die yearly from injury, and injuries from traffic collisions will be the third most common cause of disability worldwide and the second most common cause in the developing world.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that falls from heights of less than 5 meters are the leading cause of injury, and automobile crashes are the next most frequent cause. These data reflect all injuries, not just blunt injuries to the abdomen.

A review from Singapore described trauma as the leading cause of death in those aged 1-44 years. Traffic accidents, stab wounds, and falls from heights were the leading modes of injury. Blunt abdominal trauma accounted for 79% of cases.[8]

A similar paper from India reported that blunt abdominal trauma is more frequent in males aged 21-30 years; the majority of patients were injured in automobile accidents. A German study indicated that, of patients with vertical deceleration injuries (ie, falls from heights), only 5.9% had blunt abdominal injuries.

Age-related differences in incidence

Most studies indicate that the peak incidence is in persons aged 14-30 years. A review of 19,261 patients with blunt abdominal trauma revealed equal incidence of hollow viscus injuries in both children (ie, ≤14 y) and adults.

Sex-related differences in incidence

According to national and international data, blunt abdominal trauma is more common in men. The male-to-female ratio is 60:40.

Prognosis

Overall prognosis for patients who sustain blunt abdominal trauma is favorable. Without statistics that indicate the number of out-of-hospital deaths and the total number of patients with blunt trauma to the abdomen, a description of the specific prognosis for patients with intra-abdominal injuries is difficult. Mortality rates for hospitalized patients are approximately 5-10%.

The National Pediatric Trauma Registry reported that 9% of pediatric patients with blunt abdominal trauma died. Of these, only 22% were reported as having intra-abdominal injuries as the likely cause of death.[7]

A review from Australia of intestinal injuries in blunt trauma reported that 85% of injuries occurred from vehicular accidents. The mortality rate was 6%. In a large review of operating room deaths in which blunt trauma accounted for 61% of all injuries, abdominal trauma was the primary identified cause of death in 53.4% of cases.

Patient Education

Proper adjustment of restraints in motor vehicles is an important aspect of patient education. The following are key recommendations:

  • Wear lap belts in conjunction with shoulder restraints.

  • Adjust lap belts so that they fit snugly, and place them across the lower abdomen and below the iliac crests.

  • Wear restraints even in vehicles equipped with supplemental vehicle restraints (eg, airbags).

  • Adjust seats and steering wheels so that the distance between the abdominal wall and the steering wheel is as wide as possible while still allowing proper control of the vehicle.

Advise patients to practice defensive driving by observing speed limits and keeping a safe distance between them and other automobiles on the road.

For patient education resources, see the Kidneys and Urinary System Center, as well as Blood in the Urine and Bruises.

 

Presentation

History

Initially, evaluation and resuscitation of a trauma patient occur simultaneously. In general, do not obtain a detailed history until life-threatening injuries have been identified and therapy has been initiated. The initial assessment begins at the scene of the injury, with information provided by the patient, family, bystanders, or paramedics, or police.

Important factors relevant to the care of a patient with blunt abdominal trauma, specifically those involving motor vehicles, include the following:

  • The extent of vehicular damage

  • Whether prolonged extrication was required

  • Whether the passenger space was intruded

  • Whether a passenger died

  • Whether the person was ejected from the vehicle

  • The role of safety devices such as seat belts and airbags

  • The presence of alcohol or drug use

  • The presence of a head or spinal cord injury

  • Whether psychiatric problems were evident

Important elements of the pertinent history include the following:

  • Allergies

  • Medications

  • Past medical and surgical history

  • Time of last meal

  • Immunization status

  • Events leading to the incident

  • Social history, including history of substance abuse

  • Information from family and friends

The mnemonic AMPLE (A llergies, M edications, P ast medical history, L ast meal or other intake, and E vents leading to presentation) is often useful as a means of remembering key elements of the history.

A history of out-of-hospital hypotension is a predictor of more significant intra-abdominal injuries. Even if the patient is normotensive at arrival in the emergency department (ED), he or she should be considered to be at increased risk.

Physical Examination

Primary survey

Resuscitation is performed concomitantly and continues as the physical examination is completed. Priorities in resuscitation and diagnosis are established on the basis of hemodynamic stability and the degree of injury. The goal of the primary survey, as directed by the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) protocol, is to identify and expediently treat life-threatening injuries. The protocol includes the following:

  • Airway, with cervical spine precautions

  • Breathing

  • Circulation

  • Disability

  • Exposure

It is imperative for all personnel involved in the direct care of a trauma patient to exercise universal precautions against body fluid exposure. The incidence of infectious diseases (eg, HIV, hepatitis) is significantly higher in trauma patients than in the general public, with some centers reporting rates as high as 19%. Even in medical centers with relatively low rates of communicable diseases, safely determining who is infected with such pathogens is impossible.

The standard barrier precautions include a hat, eye shield, face mask, gown, gloves, and shoe covers. Unannounced trauma arrival is probably the most common situation that leads to a breach in barrier precautions. Personnel must be instructed to adhere to these guidelines at all times, even if it means a 30-second delay in patient care.

Secondary survey

After an appropriate primary survey and initiation of resuscitation, attention should be focused on the secondary survey of the abdomen. The secondary survey is the identification of all injuries via a head-to-toe examination. For life-threatening injuries that necessitate emergency surgery, a comprehensive secondary survey should be delayed until the patient has been stabilized.

At the other end of the spectrum are victims of blunt trauma who have a benign abdomen upon initial presentation. Many injuries initially are occult and manifest over time. Frequent serial examinations, in conjunction with the appropriate diagnostic studies, such as abdominal computed tomography (CT) and bedside ultrasonography, are essential in any patient with a significant mechanism of injury.

The evaluation of a patient with blunt abdominal trauma must be accomplished with the entire patient in mind, with all injuries prioritized accordingly. This implies that injuries involving the head, the respiratory system, or the cardiovascular system may take precedence over an abdominal injury.

The abdomen should neither be ignored nor be the sole focus of the treating clinician and surgeon. In an unstable patient, the question of abdominal involvement must be expediently addressed. This is accomplished by identifying free intra-abdominal fluid with diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) or focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST). The objective is rapid identification of those patients who need a laparotomy.

The initial clinical assessment of patients with blunt abdominal trauma is often difficult and notably inaccurate. Associated injuries often cause tenderness and spasms in the abdominal wall and make diagnosis difficult. Lower rib fractures, pelvic fractures, and abdominal wall contusions may mimic the signs of peritonitis. In a collected series of 955 patients, Powell et al reported that clinical evaluation alone has an accuracy rate of only 65% for detecting the presence or absence of intraperitoneal blood.[9]

In general, accuracy increases if the patient is reevaluated repeatedly and at frequent intervals. However, repeated examinations may not be feasible in patients who need general anesthesia and surgery for other injuries. The greatest compromise of the physical examination occurs in the setting of neurologic dysfunction, which may be caused by head injury or substance abuse.

The most reliable signs and symptoms in alert patients are pain, tenderness, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, hypovolemia, and evidence of peritoneal irritation. However, large amounts of blood can accumulate in the peritoneal and pelvic cavities without any significant or early changes in the physical examination findings. Bradycardia may indicate the presence of free intraperitoneal blood in a patient with blunt abdominal injuries.

The respiratory pattern should be observed because abdominal breathing may indicate spinal cord injury. A sensory examination of the chest and abdomen should be performed to evaluate the potential for spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury may interfere with the accurate assessment of the abdomen by causing decreased or absent pain perception.

The abdominal examination must be systematic. The abdomen is inspected for abrasions or ecchymosis. Particular attention should be paid to injury patterns that predict the potential for intra-abdominal trauma (eg, lap belt abrasions, steering wheel–shaped contusions). In most studies, lap belt marks have been correlated with rupture of the small intestine and an increased incidence of other intra-abdominal injuries.

Ecchymosis involving the flanks (Grey Turner sign) or the umbilicus (Cullen sign) indicates retroperitoneal hemorrhage, but this is usually delayed for several hours to days.

Visual inspection for abdominal distention, which may be due to pneumoperitoneum, gastric dilatation secondary to assisted ventilation or swallowing of air, or ileus produced by peritoneal irritation, is important.

Auscultation of bowel sounds in the thorax may indicate the presence of a diaphragmatic injury. Abdominal bruit may indicate underlying vascular disease or traumatic arteriovenous fistula.

Palpation may reveal local or generalized tenderness, guarding, rigidity, or rebound tenderness, which suggests peritoneal injury. Such signs appearing soon after an injury suggest leakage of intestinal content. Peritonitis due to intra-abdominal hemorrhage may take several hours to develop.

Fullness and doughy consistency on palpation may indicate intra-abdominal hemorrhage. Crepitation or instability of the lower thoracic cage indicates the potential for splenic or hepatic injuries associated with lower rib injuries.

Tenderness on percussion constitutes a peritoneal sign. Tenderness mandates further evaluation and probably surgical consultation.

Rectal and bimanual vaginal pelvic examinations should be performed.[10] A rectal examination should be done to search for evidence of bony penetration resulting from a pelvic fracture, and the stool should be evaluated for gross or occult blood. The evaluation of rectal tone is important for determining the patient’s neurologic status, and palpation of a high-riding prostate suggests urethral injury.

The genitals and perineum should be examined for soft tissue injuries, bleeding, and hematoma. Pelvic instability indicates the potential for lower urinary tract injury, as well as pelvic and retroperitoneal hematoma. Open pelvic fractures are associated with a mortality rate exceeding 50%.

A nasogastric tube should be placed routinely (in the absence of contraindications, eg, basilar skull fracture) to decompress the stomach and to assess for the presence of blood. If the patient has evidence of a maxillofacial injury, an orogastric tube is preferred.

As the assessment continues, a Foley catheter is placed and a sample of urine is sent for analysis for microscopic hematuria. If injury to the urethra or bladder is suggested because of an associated pelvic fracture, then a retrograde urethrogram is performed before catheterization.

With respect to the primary and secondary surveys, pediatric patients are assessed and treated—at least initially—as adults. However, there are obvious anatomic and clinical differences between children and adults that must be kept in mind, including the following:

  • A pediatric patient’s physiologic response to injury is different.

  • Effective communication with a child is not always possible.

  • Physical examination findings become more important in children.

  • A pediatric patient’s blood volume is smaller, predisposing to rapid exsanguinations.

  • Technical procedures in pediatric patients tend to be more time consuming and challenging.

  • A child’s relatively large body surface area contributes to rapid heat loss.

Perhaps the most significant difference between pediatric and adult blunt trauma is that, for the most part, pediatric patients can be resuscitated and treated nonoperatively. Some pediatric surgeons often transfuse up to 40 mL/kg of blood products in an effort to stabilize a pediatric patient. Obviously, if this fails and the child continues to be unstable, laparotomy is indicated.

Tertiary survey

The concept of the tertiary trauma survey was first introduced by Enderson et al to assist in the diagnosis of any injuries that may have been missed during the primary and secondary surveys.[11] The tertiary survey involves a repetition of the primary and secondary surveys and a revision of all laboratory and radiographic studies. In 1 study, a tertiary trauma survey detected 56% of injuries missed during the initial assessment within 24 hours of admission.[12]

Complications

Complications associated with blunt abdominal trauma include but are not limited to the following:

  • Missed injuries

  • Delays in diagnosis

  • Delays in treatment

  • Iatrogenic injuries

  • Intra-abdominal sepsis and abscess

  • Inadequate resuscitation

  • Delayed splenic rupture

In patients that undergo laparotomy and repair, complications are similar to other conditions that require operative intervention.

 

DDx

Diagnostic Considerations

Identification of intra-abdominal injuries can be challenging. Common pitfalls in diagnosis include the following:

  • Failure to suspect intra-abdominal injury from appropriate mechanisms

  • Failure to evaluate abdominal/flank/costal margin pain after blunt abdominal injury

  • Failure to obtain timely surgical consultation and operative intervention

  • Failure to recognize intra-abdominal hemorrhage and delay operation for additional diagnostic testing in the face of hemodynamic compromise

Differential Diagnoses

 

Workup

Approach Considerations

In recent years, laboratory evaluation of trauma patients has been a matter of significant discussion. Commonly recommended studies include serum glucose, complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistries, serum amylase, urinalysis, coagulation studies, blood typing and cross-matching, arterial blood gases (ABGs), blood ethanol, urine drug screens, and a urine pregnancy test (for females of childbearing age).

Serum electrolyte values, creatinine level, and glucose values are often obtained for reference, but typically they have little or no value in the initial management period.

Aggressive radiographic and surgical investigation is indicated in patients with persistent hyperamylasemia or hyperlipasemia, conditions that suggest significant intra-abdominal injury.

All patients should have their tetanus immunization history reviewed. If it is not current, prophylaxis should be given.

The most important initial concern in the evaluation of a patient with blunt abdominal trauma is an assessment of hemodynamic stability. In the hemodynamically unstable patient, a rapid evaluation must be made regarding the presence of hemoperitoneum. This can be accomplished by means of diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) or the focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST). Radiographic studies of the abdomen are indicated in stable patients when the physical examination findings are inconclusive.

A prospective, observational study by Kwok et al indicates that in children with blunt torso trauma, plain anteroposterior pelvic radiographs have only 78% sensitivity in detecting pelvic fracture or dislocation. The investigators found that such radiographic examination performed in the emergency department detected pelvic fracture or dislocation in only 297 of 382 patients known to have these injuries. The study also indicated that computed tomography (CT) scanning has a much higher sensitivity in such cases. Eighty four of the 85 patients whose injuries were not detected by radiography underwent CT scanning, which detected fracture or dislocation in 82 of them (98% sensitivity). The investigators stated, however, that CT scanning should be used only if physical exam findings indicate the presence of such trauma.[13, 14]

Go to Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) for complete information on this topic.

Blood Studies

Complete blood count

The presence of massive hemorrhage is usually obvious from hemodynamic parameters, and an abnormal hematocrit value merely confirms the diagnosis. Normal hemoglobin and hematocrit results do not rule out significant hemorrhage. Patients bleed whole blood. Until blood volume is replaced with crystalloid solution or hormonal effects (eg, adrenocorticotropic hormone [ACTH], aldosterone, antidiuretic hormone [ADH]) and transcapillary refill occurs, anemia may not develop.

Bedside diagnostic testing with rapid hemoglobin or hematocrit machines may quickly identify patients who have physiologically significant volume deficits and hemodilution. Reported hemoglobin from ABG measurements also may be useful in identifying anemia. Some studies have correlated a low initial hematocrit (ie, < 30%) with significant injuries.

Do not withhold transfusion in patients who have relatively normal hematocrit results (ie, >30%) but have evidence of clinical shock, serious injuries (eg, open-book pelvic fracture), or significant ongoing blood loss. Hemodynamic instability in an adult despite the administration of 2 L of fluid indicates ongoing blood loss and is an indication for immediate blood transfusion. Use platelet transfusions to treat patients with thrombocytopenia (ie, platelet count < 50,000/µL) and ongoing hemorrhage.

An elevated white blood cell (WBC) count on admission is nonspecific and does not predict the presence of a hollow viscus injury (HVI). The diagnostic value of serial WBC counts for predicting HVI within the first 24 hours after trauma is very limited.[15]

Serum electrolyte measurements

Recently, the usefulness of routine serum chemistries of trauma patients has been questioned. Most trauma victims are younger than 40 years and rarely are taking medications that may alter electrolytes (eg, diuretics, potassium replacements).

The more prudent choice when attempting to limit cost involves selective ordering of these studies. Selection should be based on the patient’s medications, the presence of concurrent nausea or vomiting, the presence of dysrhythmias, or a history of renal failure or other chronic medical problems associated with electrolyte imbalance.

Serum glucose and carbon dioxide measurements

If blood gas measurements are not routinely obtained, serum chemistries that measure serum glucose and carbon dioxide levels are indicated. Rapid bedside blood-glucose determination, obtained with a finger-stick measuring device, is important for patients with altered mental status.

Liver function tests

Liver function tests (LFTs) may be useful in the patient with blunt abdominal trauma; however, test findings may be elevated for several reasons (eg, alcohol abuse).[16] One study has shown that an aspartate aminotransferase (AST) or alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level more than 130 U corresponds with significant hepatic injury.[17] Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and bilirubin levels are not specific indicators of hepatic trauma.

Serum amylase or lipase measurements

The serum lipase or amylase level is neither sensitive nor specific as a marker for major pancreatic or enteric injury. Normal levels do not exclude a major pancreatic injury. Elevated levels may be caused by injuries to the head and face or by an assortment of nontraumatic causes (eg, alcohol, narcotics, various other drugs). Amylase or lipase levels may be elevated because of pancreatic ischemia caused by the systemic hypotension that accompanies trauma.

However, persistent hyperamylasemia or hyperlipasemia (eg, abnormal elevation 3-6 hours after trauma) should raise the suggestion of significant intra-abdominal injury and is an indication for aggressive radiographic and surgical investigation.

Coagulation profile

The cost-effectiveness of routine prothrombin time (PT)/activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) determination upon admission is questionable. PT or aPTT should be measured in patients who have a history of blood dyscrasias (eg, hemophilia), who have synthetic problems (eg, cirrhosis), or who take anticoagulant medications (eg, warfarin, heparin).

Blood typing, screening, and cross-matching

Blood from all trauma patients with suspected blunt abdominal injury should be screened and typed. If an injury is identified, this practice greatly reduces the time required for cross-matching. An initial cross-match should be performed on a minimum of 4-6 units for those patients with clear evidence of abdominal injury and hemodynamic instability. Until cross-matched blood is available, O-negative or type-specific blood should be used.

Arterial blood gas measurements

ABG values may provide important information in major trauma victims. In addition to information about oxygenation (eg, partial pressure of oxygen [PO2] and arterial oxygen saturation [SaO2]) and ventilation (partial pressure of carbon dioxide [PCO2]), this test provides valuable information regarding oxygen delivery through calculation of the alveolar-arterial (A-a) gradient. ABG determinations also report total hemoglobin more rapidly than CBCs.

Upon initial hospital admission, suspect metabolic acidemia to result from the lactic acidosis that accompanies shock. A moderate base deficit (ie, more than –5 mEq) indicates the need for aggressive resuscitation and determination of the etiology.

Attempt to improve systemic oxygen delivery by ensuring an adequate SaO2 (ie, >90%) and by acquiring volume resuscitation with crystalloid solutions and, if indicated, blood.

Drug and alcohol screening

Perform drug and alcohol screens on trauma patients who have alterations in their level of consciousness. Breath or blood testing may quantify alcohol level.

Urine Studies

Indications for diagnostic urinalysis include significant trauma to the abdomen and/or flank, gross hematuria, microscopic hematuria in the setting of hypotension, and a significant deceleration mechanism.[18]

Obtain a contrast nephrogram by utilizing intravenous pyelography (IVP) or computed tomography (CT) scanning with intravenous (IV) contrast. Gross hematuria indicates a workup that includes cystography and IVP or CT scanning of the abdomen with contrast.

Perform a urine toxicologic screen as appropriate. Obtain a serum or urine pregnancy test on all females of childbearing age.

Plain Radiography

Although their overall value in the evaluation of patients with blunt abdominal trauma is limited, plain films can demonstrate numerous findings. The chest radiograph may aid in the diagnosis of abdominal injuries such as ruptured hemidiaphragm (eg, a nasogastric tube seen in the chest) or pneumoperitoneum.

The pelvic or chest radiograph can demonstrate fractures of the thoracolumbar spine. The presence of transverse fractures of the vertebral bodies (ie, Chance fractures) suggests a higher likelihood of blunt injuries to the bowel. In addition, free intraperitoneal air, or trapped retroperitoneal air from duodenal perforation, may be seen.

Ultrasonography

The use of diagnostic ultrasonography to evaluate a patient with blunt trauma for abdominal injuries has been advocated since the 1970s. European and Asian investigators have extensive experience with this technology and are leaders in the use of ultrasound for the diagnosis of blunt abdominal trauma.

The first American report of physician-performed abdominal ultrasonography in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma was published in 1992 by Tso and colleagues.[19] Since then, numerous articles have been published in the United States advocating the use of ultrasound (ie, FAST) in the evaluation of the patient with blunt abdominal trauma.

Bedside ultrasonography is a rapid, portable, noninvasive, and accurate examination that can be performed by emergency clinicians and trauma surgeons to detect hemoperitoneum. In fact, in many medical centers, the FAST examination has virtually replaced DPL as the procedure of choice in the evaluation of hemodynamically unstable trauma patients.

The FAST examination is based on the assumption that all clinically significant abdominal injuries are associated with hemoperitoneum. However, the detection of free intraperitoneal fluid is based on factors such as the body habitus, injury location, presence of clotted blood, position of the patient, and amount of free fluid present.

In a patient with isolated blunt abdominal trauma and multisystem injuries, FAST performed by an experienced sonographer can rapidly identify free intraperitoneal fluid (generally appearing as a black stripe). The sensitivity for solid organ encapsulated injury is moderate in most studies. Hollow viscus injury (HVI) rarely is identified; however, free fluid may be visualized. For patients with persistent pain or tenderness or those developing peritoneal signs, FAST may be considered as a complementary measure to CT scanning, DPL, or exploration.

The minimum threshold for detecting hemoperitoneum is unknown and remains a subject of interest. Kawaguchi and colleagues found that 70 mL of blood could be detected,[20] whereas Tiling et al found that 30 mL is the minimum requirement for detection with ultrasonography.[21] They also concluded that a small anechoic stripe in the Morison pouch represents approximately 250 mL of fluid, whereas 0.5-cm and 1-cm stripes represent approximately 500 mL and 1 L of free fluid, respectively.

The current FAST examination protocol consists of 4 acoustic windows with the patient supine. These windows are pericardiac, perihepatic, perisplenic, and pelvic (known as the 4 P s). An examination is interpreted as positive if free fluid is found in any of the 4 acoustic windows and as negative if no fluid is seen. An examination is deemed indeterminate if any of the windows cannot be adequately assessed.

The pericardial window is obtained via a subcostal or transthoracic approach. It provides a 4-chamber view of the heart and can detect the presence of hemopericardium, which is demonstrated by the separation of the visceral and parietal pericardial layers. The perihepatic window yields views of portions of the liver, diaphragm, and right kidney. It reveals fluid in the Morison pouch (see the images below), the subphrenic space, and the right pleural space.

Blunt abdominal trauma. Normal Morison pouch (ie, Blunt abdominal trauma. Normal Morison pouch (ie, no free fluid).
Blunt abdominal trauma. Free fluid in Morison pouc Blunt abdominal trauma. Free fluid in Morison pouch.

The perisplenic window provides views of the spleen and the left kidney and reveals fluid in the splenorenal recess (see the images below), the left pleural space, and the subphrenic space. The pelvic window makes use of the bladder as a sonographic window and thus is best accomplished while the patient has a full bladder. In males, free fluid is seen as an anechoic area (sonographically black) in the rectovesicular pouch or cephalad to the bladder. In females, fluid accumulates in the Douglas pouch, posterior to the uterus.

Blunt abdominal trauma. Normal splenorenal recess. Blunt abdominal trauma. Normal splenorenal recess.
Blunt abdominal trauma. Free fluid in splenorenal Blunt abdominal trauma. Free fluid in splenorenal recess.

FAST’s diagnostic accuracy generally is equal to that of DPL. Studies in the United States have demonstrated the value of bedside sonography as a noninvasive approach for rapid evaluation of hemoperitoneum. The studies demonstrate a degree of operator dependence; however, some studies have shown that with a structured learning session, even novice operators can identify free intra-abdominal fluid, especially if more than 500 mL of fluid is present. Sensitivity and specificity of these studies range from 85% to 95%.[22, 23, 24, 25, 26]

As noted, FAST relies on hemoperitoneum to identify patients with injury. Chiu and colleagues, in their study of 772 patients with blunt trauma undergoing FAST scans, reported 52 patients had an abdominal injury.[27] Of the 52 patients, 15 (29%) had no hemoperitoneum on FAST or CT scan results. These findings suggest that the reliance on hemoperitoneum as the sole indicator of abdominal visceral injury limits the utility of FAST as a diagnostic screening tool in stable patients with blunt abdominal trauma.

Rozycki et al studied 1540 patients and reported that ultrasonography was the most sensitive and specific modality for the evaluation of hypotensive patients with blunt abdominal trauma (sensitivity and specificity, 100%).[26]

A randomized clinical trial by Holmes et al reported that FAST examination did not improve clinical care (use of resources, ED length of stay, missed intra-abdominal injuries, or hospital charges) in 975 hemodynamically stable children younger than 18 years of age treated for blunt torso trauma.[28]

Hemodynamically stable patients with positive FAST results may require a CT scan to better define the nature and extent of their injuries. Taking every patient with a positive FAST result to the operating room may result in an unacceptably high laparotomy rate.

Hemodynamically stable patients with negative FAST results require close observation, serial abdominal examinations, and a follow-up FAST examination. However, strongly consider performing a CT scan, especially if the patient is intoxicated or has other associated injuries.

A Cochrane Review reported that positive point-of-care sonography findings can help guide treatment decisions, however, a negative point-of-care sonography exam should not eliminate abdominal trauma injuries and should be verified with another reference test (e.g. CT), particularly in pediatric cases.[29]

Hemodynamically unstable patients with negative FAST results are a diagnostic challenge. Options include DPL, exploratory laparotomy, and, possibly, a CT scan after aggressive resuscitation.

Go to Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) for complete information on this topic.

Computed Tomography

Although expensive and potentially time-consuming, CT scanning often provides the most detailed images of traumatic pathology and may assist in determination of operative intervention.[1, 2, 3, 4] CT remains the criterion standard for the detection of solid organ injuries (see the image below). In addition, a CT scan of the abdomen can reveal other associated injuries, notably vertebral and pelvic fractures and injuries in the thoracic cavity.

Blunt abdominal trauma with liver laceration. Blunt abdominal trauma with liver laceration.

CT scanning, unlike DPL or FAST, has the capability to determine the source of hemorrhage (see the image below). In addition, many retroperitoneal injuries go unnoticed with DPL and FAST examinations.

Blunt abdominal trauma with splenic injury and hem Blunt abdominal trauma with splenic injury and hemoperitoneum.

Transport only hemodynamically stable patients to the CT scanner. When performing CT scans, closely and carefully monitor vital signs for clinical evidence of decompensation. Preliminary evidence suggests that a flat vena cava on CT scan is a marker for underresuscitation and may be correlated with higher mortality and hemodynamic decompensation.[30]

CT scans provide excellent imaging of the pancreas, duodenum, and genitourinary system. The images can help quantitate the amount of blood in the abdomen and can reveal individual organs with precision. The primary advantage of CT scanning is its high specificity and use for guiding nonoperative management of solid organ injuries.

Drawbacks of CT scanning relate to the need to transport the patient from the trauma resuscitation area and the additional time required to perform CT scanning compared to FAST or DPL.

In addition, CT scanning may miss injuries to the diaphragm and perforations of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, especially when performed soon after the injury. Although some pancreatic injuries may be missed with a CT scan performed soon after trauma, virtually all are identified if the scan is repeated in 36-48 hours. For selected patients, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may complement CT scanning to rule out a ductal injury.

Finally, CT scanning is relatively expensive and time consuming and requires oral or intravenous (IV) contrast, which may cause adverse reactions. The best CT imagery requires both oral and IV contrast. Some controversy has arisen over the use of oral contrast and whether the additional information it provides negates the drawbacks of increased time to administration and risk of aspiration. The value of oral contrast in diagnosing bowel injury has been debated, but no definitive answer exists at this time.

A prediction rule created by Holmes and colleagues for use in children who have suffered blunt torso trauma demonstrated a negative predictive value of 99.9% for identifying patients at very low risk for intra-abdominal injuries undergoing acute intervention and for whom CT scanning could be obviated.[31, 32] The rule consists of the following 7 patient history and physical examination findings (in descending order of importance):

  • No evidence of abdominal wall trauma or seat belt sign

  • Glasgow Coma Scale score >13 (see the Glasgow Coma Scale calculator)

  • No abdominal tenderness

  • No evidence of thoracic wall trauma

  • No complaints of abdominal pain

  • No decreased breath sounds

  • No vomiting

A prospective analysis that evaluated the use of computed tomography of the abdomen and pelvis (CTAP) in 1193 blunt trauma patients under 14 years of age reported that a negative CTAP indicates that clinically significant abdominal injury is unlikely. For the 479 asymptomatic patients with negative imaging, the median length of stay was 3 days and there were not any missed injuries.[33, 34]

 

Diagnostic Laparoscopy

The introduction of minimally invasive surgery has revolutionized many surgical diagnostic protocols. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was considerable interest in the use of laparoscopy for evaluation and management of blunt and penetrating abdominal trauma. Subsequent studies, however, revealed major limitations to this approach and cautioned against its widespread use. The most important limitation is inability to reliably identify hollow viscus and retroperitoneal injuries, even in the hands of experienced laparoscopists.

Diagnostic laparoscopy involves placing a subumbilical or subcostal trocar for the introduction of the laparoscope and creating other ports for retractors, clamps, and other tools necessary for visualization of the repair.

Diagnostic laparoscopy has been most useful in the evaluation of possible diaphragmatic injuries, especially in penetrating thoracoabdominal injuries on the left side.[35, 36, 37] In blunt trauma, it has no clear advantages over less invasive modalities such as DPL and CT scanning; furthermore, complications can result from trocar misplacement.

Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage

The idea of evaluating the abdomen by analyzing its contents was first used in the diagnosis of acute abdominal conditions. In 1906, Salomon described the passage of a urethral catheter by means of a trocar inserted through the abdominal wall to obtain samples of peritoneal fluid with the aim of establishing the diagnosis of peritonitis from infectious agents (eg, pneumococcal or tuberculous organisms). This technique has since been refined and is now known as abdominal paracentesis.

In 1926, Neuhof and Cohen described the sampling of peritoneal fluid in cases of acute pancreatitis and blunt abdominal trauma by passing a spinal needle through the abdominal wall.[38] In 1965, Root et al reported the use of percutaneous DPL in patients who had sustained blunt abdominal trauma.[39]

DPL is used as a method of rapidly determining the presence of intraperitoneal blood. It is particularly useful if the history and abdominal examination of an unstable patient with multisystem injuries are either unreliable (eg, because of head injury, alcohol, or drug intoxication) or equivocal (eg, because of lower rib fractures, pelvic fractures, or confounding clinical examination).

DPL is also useful for patients in whom serial abdominal examinations cannot be performed (eg, those in an angiographic suite or operating room during emergency orthopedic or neurosurgical procedures).[40]

DPL is indicated for the following patients in the setting of blunt trauma:

  • Patients with a spinal cord injury

  • Those with multiple injuries and unexplained shock

  • Obtunded patients with a possible abdominal injury

  • Intoxicated patients in whom abdominal injury is suggested

  • Patients with potential intra-abdominal injury who will undergo prolonged anesthesia for another procedure

The only absolute contraindication to DPL is the obvious need for laparotomy. Relative contraindications include morbid obesity, a history of multiple abdominal surgeries, and pregnancy.

Various methods of introducing the catheter into the peritoneal space have been described. These include the open, semiopen, and closed methods. The open method requires an infraumbilical skin incision that is extended to and through the linea alba. (In pregnant patients or in patients with particular risk for potential pelvic hematoma, the incision should be placed superior to the umbilicus.) The peritoneum is opened, and the catheter is inserted under direct visualization.

The semiopen method is identical, except that the peritoneum is not opened and the catheter is delivered percutaneously through the peritoneum into the peritoneal cavity. The closed technique requires the catheter to be inserted blindly through the skin, subcutaneous tissue, linea alba, and peritoneum.

The closed and semiopen techniques at the infraumbilical site are preferred at most centers. The fully open method is the most technically demanding and is restricted to those situations in which the closed or semiopen technique is unsuccessful or is deemed unsafe (eg, patients with pelvic fractures, pregnancy, obesity, or prior abdominal operations).

After insertion of the catheter into the peritoneum, attempt to aspirate free intraperitoneal blood (at least 15-20 mL). DPL results are considered positive in a blunt trauma patient if 10 mL of grossly bloody aspirate is obtained before infusion of the lavage fluid or if the siphoned lavage fluid contains more than 100,000 red blood cells (RBCs)/µL, more than 500 white blood cells (WBCs)/µL, elevated amylase content, bile, bacteria, vegetable matter, or urine. Only approximately 30 mL of blood is needed in the peritoneum to produce a microscopically positive DPL result.

If findings are negative, infuse 1 L of crystalloid solution (eg, lactated Ringer solution) into the peritoneum. Then, allow this fluid to drain by gravity, and ensure that laboratory analysis is performed.

Complications of DPL include bleeding from the incision and catheter insertion, infection (ie, wound, peritoneal), and injury to intra-abdominal structures (eg, urinary bladder, small bowel, uterus). These complications may increase the possibility of false-positive studies. Additionally, infection of the incision, peritonitis from the catheter placement, laceration of the urinary bladder, or injury to other intra-abdominal organs can occur.

Bleeding from the incision, dissection, or catheter insertion can cause false-positive results that may lead to unnecessary laparotomy. Achieve appropriate hemostasis prior to entering the peritoneum and placing the catheter. False-positive DPL results can occur if an infraumbilical approach is used in a patient with a pelvic fracture. A pelvic x-ray film should be obtained prior to performing DPL if a pelvic fracture is suggested. Before DPL is attempted, the urinary bladder and stomach should be decompressed.

DPL has been shown in some studies to have a diagnostic accuracy of 98-100%, a sensitivity of 98-100%, and a specificity of 90-96%. It has some advantages, including high sensitivity, rapidity, and immediate interpretation. The main limitations of DPL include its potential for iatrogenic abdominal injury and its high sensitivity, which can lead to nontherapeutic laparotomies.

With the availability of fast, noninvasive, and better imaging modalities (eg, FAST, CT scanning), the role of DPL is now limited to the evaluation of unstable trauma patients in whom FAST results are negative or inconclusive. In some contexts, DPL may be complemented with a CT scan if the patient has positive lavage results but stabilizes.

 

Treatment

Approach Considerations

Treatment of blunt abdominal trauma begins at the scene of the injury and is continued upon the patient’s arrival at the emergency department (ED) or trauma center. Management may involve nonoperative measures or surgical treatment, as appropriate.

Indications for laparotomy in a patient with blunt abdominal injury include the following:

  • Signs of peritonitis

  • Uncontrolled shock or hemorrhage

  • Clinical deterioration during observation

  • Hemoperitoneum findings after focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST) or diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) examinations

Finally, surgical intervention is indicated in patients with evidence of peritonitis based on physical examination findings.

Operative treatment is not indicated in every patient with positive FAST scan results. Hemodynamically stable patients with positive FAST findings may require a computed tomography (CT) scan to better define the nature and extent of their injuries. Operating on every patient with positive FAST scan findings may result in an unacceptably high laparotomy rate.

Resuscitative thoracotomy is not recommended in patients with blunt thoracoabdominal trauma who have pulseless electrical activity upon arrival in the emergency department (ED). The survival rate in this situation is virtually 0%. These patients may be allowed a thoracotomy in the ED only if they have signs of life upon arrival.

Prehospital Care

Prehospital care focuses on rapidly evaluating life-threatening problems, initiating resuscitative measures, and initiating prompt transport to a definitive care site.[41, 42] The injured patient is at risk for progressive deterioration from continued bleeding and requires rapid transport to a trauma center or the closest appropriate facility, with appropriate stabilization procedures performed en route. Hence, securing the airway, placing large-bore intravenous (IV) lines, and administering IV fluid must take place en route, unless transport is delayed.

A study by Nirula et al demonstrates the importance of field triage protocols that allow immediate transport to definitive care sites for very severely injured patients.[43] In the study, the odds of death were 3.8 times greater for patients initially triaged to a nontrauma center. Such responses require preplanning within a mature trauma system and mandate appropriate prehospital training and protocols.

Use endotracheal intubation to secure the airway of any patient who is unable to maintain the airway or who has potential airway threats. Secure the airway in conjunction with in-line cervical immobilization in any patient who may have suffered cervical trauma. Provide artificial ventilation by using a high fraction of inspired oxygen (FIO2) for patients who exhibit compromised breathing respirations. Maintain oxygen saturation (SaO2) at more than 90-92%.

External hemorrhage rarely is associated with blunt abdominal trauma. If external bleeding is present, control it with direct pressure. Note any signs of inadequate systemic perfusion. Consider intraperitoneal hemorrhage whenever evidence of hemorrhagic shock is found in the absence of external hemorrhage.

Initiate volume resuscitation with crystalloid solution; however, never delay patient transport while IV lines are inserted. En route, administer a fluid bolus of lactated Ringer or normal saline solution to patients with evidence of shock.[44, 45]

Titrate IV fluid therapy to the patient’s clinical response. Because overaggressive volume resuscitation may lead to recurrent or increased hemorrhage, IV fluids should be titrated to a systolic blood pressure of 90-100 mm Hg. This practice should provide the mean blood pressure necessary to maintain perfusion of the vital organs.

Acquire expeditious and complete spinal immobilization on patients with multisystem injuries and on patients with a mechanism of injury that has potential for spinal cord trauma. In the rural setting, the pneumatic antishock garment may have a role for treating shock resulting from a severe pelvic fracture.

Promptly notify the destination hospital so that that facility can activate its trauma team and prepare for the patient.

Emergency Department Care

Upon the patient’s arrival in the emergency department (ED) or trauma center, a rapid primary survey should be performed to identify immediate life-threatening problems.

The first priority is reassessment of the airway. Protection of the cervical spine with in-line immobilization is absolutely mandatory. If intubation is indicated, attempt nasotracheal (ie, if no contraindications) or endotracheal intubation. If possible, perform and record a brief neurologic examination prior to neuromuscular blockade and intubation. If intubation is unsuccessful, perform cricothyroidotomy (see the video below).

Surgical cricothyroidotomy Seldinger. Video courtesy of Therese Canares, MD, and Jonathan Valente, MD, Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University.

After an airway has been established, adequate ventilatory exchange is assessed by auscultation of both lung fields. Patients who display apnea or hypoventilation require respiratory support, as do those patients with tachypnea. Provide all patients with supplemental oxygen from a device capable of delivering a high fraction of inspired oxygen (FIO2) (eg, a nonrebreather mask).

Clinical diagnosis of a tension pneumothorax is treated with needle decompression followed by chest thoracostomy tube placement. Other mechanical factors that can interfere with ventilation include sucking chest wounds, a hemothorax, and pulmonary contusion. Treat these aggressively and expediently.

The next priority in the primary survey is an assessment of the circulatory status of the patient. Circulatory collapse in a patient with blunt abdominal trauma is usually caused by hypovolemia from hemorrhage. Identification of hypovolemia and signs of shock necessitate vigorous resuscitation and attempts to identify the source of blood loss.

Effective volume resuscitation is accomplished by controlling external hemorrhage and infusing warmed crystalloid solution via 2 large-bore (eg, 18-gauge) peripheral IV lines. Use central lines (preferably femoral by using a large-bore line such as a Cordis catheter) and cutdowns (eg, saphenous, brachial) for patients in whom percutaneous peripheral access cannot be established. Administer a rapid bolus of crystalloid.

Hemodynamic instability despite the administration of 2 L of fluid to adult patients indicates ongoing blood loss and is an indication for immediate blood transfusion. Administer type O, Rh-negative blood if cross-matched or type-specific blood is not available.

The CONTROL trial, the only prospective randomized trial of factor VII in trauma patients, evaluated the efficacy and safety of recombinant factor VIIa as an adjunct to direct hemostasis in major trauma. Results showed a small decrease in blood utilization but no mortality benefit. Currently available data do not support empiric use of factor VIIa for civilian trauma patients.[46]

The primary survey is completed with a brief neurologic assessment of the patient using elements of the Glasgow Coma Scale (see the Glasgow Coma Scale calculator). The patient is undressed and draped in clean, dry, warm sheets.

After the primary survey and initial resuscitation have begun, complete the secondary survey, as described earlier (see Physical Examination). Perform a thorough head-to-toe examination, paying attention to evidence of the mechanism of injury and potentially injured areas. Before the placement of a nasogastric tube and Foley catheter, perform appropriate head, neck, pelvic, perineum, and rectal examinations. “Log-roll” the patient to examine the back and palpate the entire spinal column.

On the basis of the injury mechanism and the findings from physical examination, obtain initial trauma radiographic studies. In general, trauma suite views include lateral cervical spine, anterior portable chest, and pelvis radiographs. In-line spinal immobilization must be continued until spinal fractures have been ruled out. Additional radiographs are indicated for other findings in the secondary survey.

Bedside ultrasonography using a trauma examination protocol (eg, FAST) can be used to determine the presence of intraperitoneal hemorrhage (see the images below). If findings are negative or equivocal, DPL may be performed in hemodynamically unstable patients.

Ultrasound image of right flank. Clear hypoechoic Ultrasound image of right flank. Clear hypoechoic stripe exists between right kidney and liver in Morison pouch.
Ultrasound image of left flank in same patient, wi Ultrasound image of left flank in same patient, with thin hypoechoic stripe above spleen and wider hypoechoic stripe in splenorenal recess.

Depending on patient stability, injury mechanism, and likelihood of intra-abdominal injury, further investigation may be warranted for patients who are hemodynamically stable after the initial assessment and resuscitation and who have negative or equivocal FAST or DPL results. Further investigation includes contrast-enhanced CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis or serial examinations and ultrasonography.

Nonoperative Management

Nonoperative management (NOM) strategies based on CT scan diagnosis and the hemodynamic stability of the patient are now being used in adults for the treatment of solid organ injuries, primarily those to the liver and spleen. In blunt abdominal trauma, including severe solid organ injuries, selective nonoperative management has become the standard of care.

Angiography is a valuable modality in nonoperative management of abdominal solid organ injuries from blunt trauma in adults. It is used aggressively for nonoperative control of hemorrhage, thereby obviating nontherapeutic cost-inefficient laparotomies.

Splenic artery embolotherapy (SAE), although not standard of care, is another nonoperative management modality for adult blunt splenic injury. Requarth et al conducted a metaanalysis comparing outcomes data for observational management versus SAE by splenic injury grade cohort. Results show the failure rate of observational management increases with splenic injury grade, whereas the failure rate of SAE does not change significantly from splenic injury grades 1 to 5. In grade 4 and 5 injuries, SAE is associated with significantly higher salvage rates. The SAE success rate noted may in part be due to the fact that SAE was introduced later in the experience surveyed, and the improved NOM failure rate may be due to other factors that came into play as the experience proceeded.[47]

The trend toward simply observing hemodynamically stable patients with injuries involving the spleen, liver, or kidneys is becoming more popular. In a study of pediatric patients, those with blunt abdominal trauma who were hemodynamically stable after fluid replacement of less than 40 mL/kg, had proven evidence of solid organ injuries, and remained stable were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) under surgical management. No deaths and no immediate or long-term complications were reported in this group.

If the decision has been made to observe the patient, closely monitor vital signs and frequently repeat the physical examination. An increased temperature or respiratory rate can indicate a perforated viscus or the formation of an abscess. Pulse and blood pressure can also change with sepsis or intra-abdominal bleeding. Physical examination findings reflecting peritonitis are an indication for surgical intervention.

A study by Mora et al evaluated the differences in outcomes among children with blunt pancreatic injuries managed operatively and nonoperatively. The study concluded that overall, children managed nonoperatively have equivalent or better outcomes when compared with operative and delayed operative management in regard to death, overall complications, length of stay, ICU length of stay, and ICU use.[48]

Surgical Management

Resuscitative thoracotomy

Resuscitative thoracotomy in the ED is only occasionally life-saving. It is an aggressive, desperate measure intended to save a patient whose death is thought to be imminent or otherwise inevitable. Survival with good neurologic recovery is more likely for patients with penetrating trauma than for patients with blunt trauma. Thoracotomy may have a role in selected patients with penetrating injuries to the neck, chest, or extremities and those with signs of life within 5 minutes of arrival in the ED.

A resuscitative thoracotomy is seldom of benefit for patients with cardiac arrest secondary to blunt or head injury or for those without vital signs at the scene of the accident. Patients with blunt thoracoabdominal trauma with pulseless electrical activity upon arrival in the ED have a survival rate of virtually 0% and are poor candidates for resuscitative thoracotomy. Patients with blunt trauma may be allowed a thoracotomy in the ED only if they have signs of life upon arrival.

In a patient with hemoperitoneum from blunt thoracoabdominal trauma, the goals of a resuscitative thoracotomy in the ED are (1) to cross-clamp the aorta, diverting available blood to the coronaries and cerebral vessels during resuscitation; (2) to evacuate pericardial tamponade; (3) to directly control thoracic hemorrhage; and (4) to open the chest for cardiac massage.

Laparotomy and definitive repair

Indications for laparotomy in a patient with blunt abdominal injury include signs of peritonitis, uncontrolled shock or hemorrhage, clinical deterioration during observation, and hemoperitoneum findings after FAST or DPL examinations (see Workup).

When laparotomy is indicated, broad-spectrum antibiotics are given. A midline incision is usually preferred. When the abdomen is opened, hemorrhage control is accomplished by removing blood and clots, packing all 4 quadrants, and clamping vascular structures. Obvious hollow viscus injuries (HVIs) are sutured. After intra-abdominal injuries have been repaired and hemorrhage has been controlled by packing, a thorough exploration of the abdomen is then performed to evaluate the entire contents of the abdomen.

After intraperitoneal injuries are controlled, the retroperitoneum and pelvis must be inspected. Do not explore pelvic hematomas. Use external fixation of pelvic fractures to reduce or stop blood loss in this region. Explore large or expanding midline retroperitoneal hematomas, with the anticipation of damage to the large vascular structures, pancreas, or duodenum. Do not explore small or stable perinephric hematomas.

After the source of bleeding has been stopped, further stabilizing the patient with fluid resuscitation and appropriate warming is important. After such measures are complete, perform a thorough exploratory laparotomy with appropriate repair of all injured structures.

A study by Crookes et al suggests that the true morbidity of a negative laparotomy may not be as high as previously believed.[49] They conclude that in blunt abdominal trauma patients, exploratory laparotomy to establish a diagnosis does not result in increased morbidity in a 30-day period, compared with no laparotomy. In other words, it is safer to undergo laparotomy with negative findings than to delay treatment of an injury.

It must be stressed, however, that in this digital era with high-resolution imaging the need to take a patient for exploratory laparotomy only to establish a diagnosis may be unnecessary and expensive if, for instance, the CT is negative and the patient is hemodynamically stable.

Patients who had gross enteric contamination of the peritoneal cavity are given appropriate antibiotics for 5-7 days.

If a pelvic hematoma was found and the patient continues to lose blood after external fixation of a pelvic fracture, arteriography with embolization can be used to stop the small percentage of arterial bleeding found in pelvic fractures.

In adults, splenic artery embolization has been shown to improve nonoperative splenic salvage rates. A retrospective review showed that this procedure may be useful in the adolescent population as well, particularly in patients with high-grade injuries or with evidence of splenic vascular injury, although this is not the standard of care.[50]

A multicenter study found that delays in returning to the operating room after damage control laparotomy are associated with the failure to achieve primary fascial closure. The study also concluded that the best results were attained if the reoperation took place within 24 hours of the initial surgery.[51, 52]

Consultations

The best outcomes from trauma are obtained by involving consultants who possess specific expertise and training in managing trauma patients. Consider evaluation by a trauma surgeon for all patients with evidence of blunt abdominal trauma. Clearly, hemodynamic instability or the identification of significant abnormalities during physical examination or a diagnostic procedure necessitates the involvement of a trauma surgeon.

Specific physical examination findings that call for timely surgical evaluation are as follows:

  • History of blunt abdominal trauma, shock, or abnormal vital signs (eg, tachycardia, hypotension)

  • Evidence of shock without obvious external blood loss

  • Evidence of peritonitis (eg, marked tenderness, involuntary guarding, percussion tenderness)

  • Findings consistent with potential intra-abdominal injury (eg, lap belt signs, lower rib fractures, lumbar spine fractures)

  • Altered levels of consciousness or sensation, whether due to drugs, alcohol, or head/spinal injury

  • Patients who require other prolonged operative intervention (eg, orthopedic procedures)

Specific findings on diagnostic studies that call for timely surgical evaluation include evidence of free fluid or solid organ injury on sonograms or CT scans.

Although a trend toward nonoperative management of hepatic, splenic, and renal injuries in patients who are hemodynamically normal has occurred, a trained trauma surgeon must oversee this care.

Other specific findings that indicate timely trauma surgeon involvement are as follows:

  • Positive findings on DPL

  • Evidence of extravasated contrast or extraluminal air on an upper gastrointestinal series (eg, duodenal rupture), plain abdominal radiography, or cystography

  • Serious pelvic fractures

  • Evidence of bladder rupture on contrast cystogram or gross hematuria

  • Elevated findings on liver function studies

If consultants with expertise in managing blunt abdominal injuries are unavailable, arrange patient transfer to the nearest appropriate trauma center as soon as injury is identified. Lengthy diagnostic workup is counterproductive once it is recognized that a patient cannot be managed at the initial facility. Physician-to-physician consultation must occur before transport to ensure that the receiving facility has the resources necessary to care for the patient.

Long-Term Monitoring

Before discharge, provide patients with detailed instructions that describe signs of undiagnosed injury. Increased abdominal pain or distention, nausea or vomiting, weakness, lightheadedness or fainting, or new bleeding in urine or feces mandates immediate return and further evaluation. Ensure that close follow-up care and repeat examinations are available for all patients.

 

Medication

Medication Summary

Judiciously prescribe pain medications to patients who are discharged. To prevent masked or delayed presentations, ensure that a close follow-up for reevaluation is available to all patients who are provided pain medications. With the potential for hemorrhage, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) probably should be avoided. Acetaminophen with or without small quantities of mild narcotic analgesics may be all that should be prescribed initially. Minimize use of analgesics in patients who are admitted for observation.

Patients who undergo laparotomy may require routine perioperative antibiotics. Patients with repaired hollow organ injury may require additional antibiotics.

Analgesics

Class Summary

Pain control is essential to quality patient care. It ensures patient comfort, promotes pulmonary toilet, and prevents exacerbations in tachycardia and hypertension.

Morphine sulfate (Duramorph, Astramorph, MS Contin, Avinza, Kadian)

Morphine is the drug of choice for narcotic analgesia due to its reliable and predictable effects, safety profile, and ease of reversibility with naloxone. Like fentanyl, morphine sulfate is easily titrated to desired level of pain control.

Morphine sulfate administered intravenously may be dosed in a number of ways. It is commonly titrated until the desired effect is obtained.

Fentanyl citrate (Fentora, Abastral, Duragesic)

A synthetic opioid analgesic that is primarily a mu receptor agonist, fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It has a short duration of action (1-2 h) and minimal cardiovascular effects, such as hypotension. Respiratory depression is uncommon, but this effect lasts longer than its analgesic effect. Fentanyl is frequently used in patient-controlled analgesia for relief of pain. Unlike morphine, fentanyl is not commonly associated with histamine release.

Acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco)

This drug combination is indicated for relief of moderate to severe pain.

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

Hydromorphone is a potent semisynthetic opiate agonist similar in structure to morphine. It is approximately 7-8 times as potent as morphine on mg-to-mg basis, with a shorter or similar duration of action.

Acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol-3)

This combination is a mild narcotic analgesic. Provide the family with a small supply for use when pain severity is greater than can be managed with acetaminophen alone. Counsel parents to use for severe pain only, not as the first medication for each symptom.

Antibiotics

Class Summary

Empiric antimicrobial therapy must be comprehensive and should cover all likely pathogens in the context of the clinical setting.

Cefazolin

Cefazolin is a first-generation semisynthetic cephalosporin, which, by binding to 1 or more penicillin-binding proteins, arrests bacterial cell wall synthesis and inhibits bacterial replication. It has a poor capacity to cross the blood-brain barrier. Cefazolin is primarily active against skin flora, including S aureus. Regimens for intravenous and intramuscular dosing are similar. It is typically used alone for skin and skin-structure coverage.

Cephalexin (Keflex)

This is a first-generation cephalosporin that inhibits bacterial replication by inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis. It is bactericidal and is effective against rapidly growing organisms forming cell walls.

Resistance occurs by the alteration of penicillin-binding proteins. Cephalexin is effective for treatment of infections caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal organisms, including penicillinase-producing staphylococci. It may use to initiate therapy when streptococcal or staphylococcal infection is suspected.

It is used orally when outpatient management is indicated.

Cefotaxime (Claforan)

Cefotaxime is a third-generation cephalosporin with a broad gram-negative spectrum, lower efficacy against gram-positive organisms, and higher efficacy against resistant organisms. It acts by arresting bacterial cell wall synthesis by binding to one or more penicillin-binding proteins, which, in turn, inhibits bacterial growth. Cefotaxime is used for septicemia and treatment of gynecologic infections caused by susceptible organisms, but it has a lower efficacy against gram-positive organisms.

Ceftazidime (Fortaz, Tazicef)

Ceftazidime is a third-generation cephalosporin with broad-spectrum, gram-negative activity, including against Pseudomonas; it has low efficacy against gram-positive organisms and high efficacy against resistant organisms. This agent arrests bacterial growth by binding to one or more penicillin-binding proteins, which, in turn, inhibits the final transpeptidation step of peptidoglycan synthesis in bacterial cell wall synthesis, thus inhibiting cell wall biosynthesis.

The condition of the patient, severity of infection, and susceptibility of the microorganism should determine the proper dose and route of administration.

Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)

Ceftriaxone is a third-generation cephalosporin with broad-spectrum gram-negative activity, low efficacy against gram-positive organisms, and high efficacy against resistant organisms. It is considered the drug of choice for parenteral agents in community-acquired pneumonia. Bactericidal activity results from the inhibition of cell wall synthesis by binding to one or more penicillin-binding proteins. This agent exerts its antimicrobial effect by interfering with the synthesis of peptidoglycan, a major structural component of the bacterial cell wall. Bacteria eventually lyse due to ongoing activity of cell wall autolytic enzymes, while the cell wall assembly is arrested.

Ceftriaxone is highly stable in the presence of beta-lactamases, both penicillinase and cephalosporinase, and of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Approximately 33-67% of the dose is excreted unchanged in urine, and the remainder is secreted in bile and, ultimately, in feces as microbiologically inactive compounds. This agent reversibly binds to human plasma proteins, and binding has been reported to decrease from 95% bound at plasma concentrations of less than 25 mcg/mL to 85% bound at 300 mcg/mL.

Erythromycin (E.E.S., Ery-Tab, Erythrocin, PCE, EryPed)

Erythromycin covers most potential etiologic agents, including Mycoplasma species. The oral regimen may be insufficient to adequately treat Legionella species, and this agent is less active against H influenzae. Although the standard course of treatment is 10 days, treatment until the patient has been afebrile for 3-5 days seems a more rational approach. Erythromycin therapy may result in GI upset, causing some clinicians to prescribe an alternative macrolide or change to a thrice-daily dosing.

Erythromycin is a macrolide that inhibits bacterial growth possibly by blocking dissociation of peptidyl t-RNA from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest.

Amoxicillin and clavulanate (Augmentin, Augmentin XR, Amoclan)

Amoxicillin inhibits bacterial cell wall synthesis by binding to penicillin-binding proteins. The addition of clavulanate inhibits beta-lactamase producing bacteria.

It is a good alternative antibiotic for patients allergic to or intolerant of the macrolide class. It is usually is well tolerated and provides good coverage to most infectious agents. It is not effective against Mycoplasma and Legionella species. The half-life of the oral dosage form is 1-1.3 hours. It has good tissue penetration but does not enter cerebrospinal fluid.

For children older than 3 months, base the dosing protocol on the amoxicillin content. Due to different amoxicillin/clavulanic acid ratios in the 250-mg tablet (250/125) versus the 250-mg chewable tablet (250/62.5), do not use the 250-mg tablet until child weighs more than 40 kg.

Ampicillin and sulbactam (Unasyn)

This is a drug combination of a beta-lactamase inhibitor with ampicillin. It interferes with bacterial cell wall synthesis during active replication, causing bactericidal activity against susceptible organisms. It is an alternative to amoxicillin when the patient is unable to take medication orally.

It covers skin, enteric flora, and anaerobes. It is not ideal for nosocomial pathogens.

Piperacillin and tazobactam sodium (Zosyn)

This is an antipseudomonal penicillin plus a beta-lactamase inhibitor. It inhibits the biosynthesis of cell wall mucopeptide and is effective during the stage of active multiplication.

Ticarcillin and clavulanate (Timentin)

It inhibits the biosynthesis of cell wall mucopeptide and is effective during the stage of active growth.

It is an antipseudomonal penicillin plus a beta-lactamase inhibitor that provides coverage against most gram-positives, most gram negatives, and most anaerobes.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone that inhibits bacterial DNA synthesis and, consequently, growth, by inhibiting DNA gyrase and topoisomerases, which are required for replication, transcription, and translation of genetic material. Quinolones have broad activity against gram-positive and gram-negative aerobic organisms. It is has no activity against anaerobes. Continue treatment for at least 2 days (7-14 d typical) after signs and symptoms have disappeared.

Levofloxacin (Levaquin)

Levofloxacin is rapidly becoming a popular choice in pneumonia; this agent is a fluoroquinolone used to treat community-acquired pneumonia caused by S aureus, S pneumoniae (including penicillin-resistant strains), H influenzae, H parainfluenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, M catarrhalis, C pneumoniae, Legionella pneumophila, or M pneumoniae. Fluoroquinolones should be used empirically in patients likely to develop exacerbation due to resistant organisms to other antibiotics.

Levofloxacin is the L stereoisomer of the D/L parent compound ofloxacin, the D form being inactive. It is good monotherapy with extended coverage against Pseudomonas species and excellent activity against pneumococci. Levofloxacin acts by inhibition of DNA gyrase activity. The oral form has a bioavailability that is reportedly 99%.

The 750-mg dose is as well tolerated as the 500-mg dose, and it is more effective. Other fluoroquinolones with activity against S pneumoniae may be useful and include moxifloxacin, gatifloxacin, and gemifloxacin.

Clindamycin (Cleocin, Cleocin Pediatric)

Clindamycin is a lincosamide semisynthetic antibiotic produced by 7(S)-chloro-substitution of 7(R)-hydroxyl group of the parent compound lincomycin. It inhibits bacterial growth, possibly by blocking dissociation of peptidyl tRNA from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest. It widely distributes in the body, without penetration of the CNS. It is protein bound and is excreted by the liver and kidneys.

It is available in a parenteral form (ie, clindamycin phosphate) and oral form (ie, clindamycin hydrochloride). Oral clindamycin is absorbed rapidly and almost completely and is not appreciably altered by the presence of food in the stomach. Appropriate serum levels are reached and sustained for at least 6 hours following an oral dose. No significant levels are attained in cerebrospinal fluid. It is also effective against aerobic and anaerobic streptococci (except enterococci).

 

Questions & Answers

Overview

What are the challenges to correctly diagnosing blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the advantages of CT scanning in the evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the signs and symptom of blunt abdominal trauma in an alert patient?

Which injury patterns suggest an intra-abdominal trauma?

What is included in the evaluation of a patient with blunt abdominal trauma?

When is diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) indicated in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST) in patients with blunt abdominal trauma?

How is blunt abdominal trauma treated?

When is laparotomy indicated in the treatment of blunt abdominal injury?

Which nonoperative therapies are used in the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the pathophysiology of blunt abdominal trauma?

What causes blunt abdominal trauma?

What is blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the anatomy of the abdomen relevant to blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the US prevalence of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the global prevalence of blunt abdominal trauma?

Which age groups have the highest incidence of blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the sexual predilections of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the prognosis of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is included in patient education for the prevention of blunt abdominal trauma?

Presentation

Who may provide initial history in a blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the focus of clinical history in motor vehicle accident-caused blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the elements of the clinical history for blunt abdominal trauma?

How is the mnemonic AMPLE used to gather history in blunt abdominal trauma?

What does out-of-hospital hypotension suggest in blunt abdominal trauma?

When is Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) protocol performed in the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

What precautions should be taken by all staff caring for a patient with blunt abdominal trauma?

What is included in the in the abdominal exam of patients with blunt trauma?

How does the physical exam for blunt abdominal trauma differ between pediatric and adult patients?

Why is a tertiary physical exam performed in patients with blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the possible complications of blunt abdominal trauma?

DDX

What are the common pitfalls in the diagnosis of blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the differential diagnoses for Blunt Abdominal Trauma?

Workup

What is the role of lab tests in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of CBC in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of serum electrolyte measurements in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of serum glucose and carbon dioxide measurements in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of liver function tests in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of serum amylase or lipase measurements in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of a coagulation profile in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

Why is blood typing, screening, and cross-matching performed in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of arterial blood gas measurements in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of drug and alcohol screening in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of urine studies in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of plain radiography in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of ultrasonography in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of CT in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the prediction rule of CT scanning for pediatric blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of diagnostic laparoscopy in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

How is diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) performed in the workup of blunt abdominal trauma?

Treatment

When does the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma begin?

When are surgical interventions indicated in the treatment of blunt abdominal injury?

What is included in the prehospital care of blunt abdominal trauma?

How is blunt abdominal trauma treated in the emergency department (ED)?

What is the role of nonoperative treatment (NOM) in the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of resuscitative thoracotomy in the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

What is the role of laparotomy in the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

Which specialist consultations are beneficial to patients with blunt abdominal trauma?

Which physical findings should trigger surgical evaluation for the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

Which findings on diagnostic studies should trigger surgical evaluation for the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

When is patient transfer considered for the treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

What are the signs and symptoms of undiagnosed blunt abdominal trauma?

Medications

What is the role of medication for treatment of blunt abdominal trauma?

Which medications in the drug class Antibiotics are used in the treatment of Blunt Abdominal Trauma?

Which medications in the drug class Analgesics are used in the treatment of Blunt Abdominal Trauma?