Abdominal War Wounds—Experiences from Red Cross Field Hospitals
The traditional approach to abdominal war wounds consists of triage, eche-loned care, and mandatory laparotomy for penetrating abdominal injuries, and it remains valid in modern conventional wars with well-organized evacuation and surgical services. Expectant management of abdominal casualties can be considered under difficult circumstances with a high influx of patients exhausting the available resources. This can occur in regional conflicts associated with mass movements of people and with collapsed infrastructure. While always combined with adequate fluid resuscitation, antibiotic treatment, and other supportive care, the expectant approach in patients with penetrating abdominal injuries could be indicated for asymptomatic patients with multiple fragment wounds or for patients presenting several days post-injury in good condition. The focus of surgical resources and competence should be on the majority of patients with intestinal perforation only, who need surgery to save life--but not necessarily on an urgent basis--and who have a good chance of survival. The limited availability of blood products to correct blood loss and coagulation factor deficiencies, and the lack of sophisticated monitoring of hemodynamic variables that call into question the value of a damage-control approach for the most severely injured. Even if the bleeding could be temporarily controlled, the subsequent need for adequate resuscitation before returning the patient to the operating room could be difficult to achieve and would result in incompletely resuscitated patients being reoperated while acidotic, coagulopathic, and even hypothermic. Perhaps, in mass casualty situations these patients should be recognized during triage or at least early during operation, and aggressive surgery should be replaced with adequate expectant management with sedation and analgesics.