Predicting mortality in damage control surgery for major abdominal trauma

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South African Journal of Surgery

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BACKGROUND: Damage control surgery (DCS) has become well established in the past decade as the surgical strategy to be employed in the unstable trauma patient. The aim of this study was to determine which factors played a predictive role in determining mortality in patients undergoing a damage control laparotomy. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of all patients undergoing a laparotomy and DCS in a level 1 trauma centre over a 3-year period was performed. Twenty-nine potentially predictive variables for mortality were analysed. RESULTS: Of a total of 1 274 patients undergoing a laparotomy for trauma, 74 (6%) required a damage control procedure. The mean age was 28 years (range 14 - 53 years). The mechanism of injury was gunshot wounds in 57 cases (77%), blunt trauma in 14 (19%) and stabs in 3 (4%). Twenty patients died, giving an overall mortality rate of 27%. Factors significantly associated with increased mortality were increasing age (p=0.001), low base excess (p=0.002), pH (p<0.001), core temperature (p=0.002), and high blood transfusion requirement over 24 hours (p=0.002). CONCLUSION: The overall survival of patients after damage control procedures for abdominal trauma was excellent (73%). The main factors that are useful in deciding when to initiate DCS are age, base excess, pH and the core temperature.