Risk factors for late death of patients with abdominal trauma after damage control laparotomy for hemostasis
World Journal of Emergency Surgery
Risk factors for late death of patients with abdominal trauma after damage control laparotomy for hemostasis
Li-Min Liao 1
Chih-Yuan Fu 1
Shang-Yu Wang 0 1
Chien-Hung Liao 1
Shih-Ching Kang 1
Chun-Hsiang Ouyang 1
I-Ming Kuo 1
Shang-Ju Yang 1
Yu-Pao Hsu 1
Chun-Nan Yeh 2
Shao-Wei Chen 0 3
0 Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Sciences, Chang Gung University , 259 Wen-Hwa 1st Road, Taoyuan, Kwei Shan Township , Taiwan
1 Department of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital , 5 Fu-Hsing Street, Taoyuan, Kwei Shan Township , Taiwan
2 Department of General Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital , 5 Fu-Hsing Street, Taoyuan, Kwei Shan Township , Taiwan
3 Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital , 5 Fu-Hsing Street, Taoyuan, Kwei Shan Township , Taiwan
Introduction: In this study, we explored the possible causes of death and risk factors in patients who overcame the initial critical circumstance when undergoing a damage control laparotomy for abdominal trauma and succumbed later to their clinical course. Methods: This was a retrospective study. We selected patients who fulfilled our study criteria from 2002 to 2012. The medical and surgical data of these patients were then reviewed. Fifty patients (survival vs. late death, 39 vs. 11) were enrolled for further analysis. Results: In a univariable analysis, most of the significant factors were noted in the initial emergency department (ED) stage and early intensive care unit (ICU) stage, while an analysis of perioperative factors revealed a minimal impact on survival. Initial hypoperfusion (pH, BE, and GCS level) and initial poor physiological conditions (body temperature, RTS, and CPCR at ED) may contribute to the patient's final outcome. An analysis and summary of the causes of death were also performed. Conclusions: According to our study, the risk factors for late death in patients undergoing DCL may include both the initial trauma-related status and clinical conditions after DCL. In our series, the cause of death for patients with late mortality included the initial brain insult and later infectious complications.
Abdominal trauma; Damage control laparotomy; Damage control surgery
Damage control laparotomy (DCL) has been adopted as a
life-saving and temporary procedure for dying patients
who have sustained a major trauma and undergone other
abdominal emergency [1-4]. DCL is performed with an
initial laparotomy with gauze packing for hemorrhage
control, vascular pedicle ligation, or contamination
control. After the initial emergent management, patients are
sent to the intensive care unit (ICU) to correct
unfavorable factors, such as hypothermia, coagulopathy, acidosis,
and electrolyte imbalances. Within 48 to 72 hours after
the first laparotomy, a second laparotomy is usually
performed for definitive treatment. DCL was first applied in
patients with hepatic injuries during the early 20th
century, and this technique was further refined decades later
. Currently, DCL is widely used in the emergency
setting for patients with uncontrolled intra-abdominal
bleeding or severely contaminated intestinal or urological
trauma. With recent advances in ICU management, DCL
is usually followed by organized and protocolized
treatment plans, bridging the initial damage control procedure
to definite treatment .
DCL provides critically ill patients with the best
chance of survival, expands the interval for other
lifesaving interventions, and prepares patients for a
secondary laparotomy. Between the first damage control
procedure and the secondary laparotomy, ICU physicians
always make their best effort to develop a thorough
treatment plan, from maintaining the patient with good
oxygenation to the sophisticated tuning of resuscitation
details . In addition, adjuvant hemostatic procedures,
such as trans-arterial embolization (TAE) , are
sometimes necessary for better hemostatic effect. Even with
advanced ICU management and successful hemostasis,
however, some of those patients still succumb later to
their complicated clinical course. In this study, we will
explore the possible causes of death and risk factors in
patients who survived the initial critical circumstance
but succumbed to the later clinical course.
Methods and materials
Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (CGMH) is a level I
trauma center in northern Taiwan. From May 2008 to June
2012, 1203 patients sustained abdominal trauma, and 336
patients underwent surgery (either a laparotomy or a
laparoscopic procedure). At CGMH, we not only have a
24hour specialized trauma team but also have standard
protocols for all different types of major trauma over 10 years.
In addition, emergent TAE is widely used in our institute
and has been available at any hour for the past decade. For
patients with solid organ injury (including hepatic, renal,
and splenic injuries), approximately 90% of non-operative
management was conducted with a low failure rate (< 2%).
For patients with intra-abdominal bleeding, we only
performed laparotomy for refractory hemorrhagic shock,
multiple bleeding sites with difficult TAE approaching, and
either a complete failure or temporary benefit of TAE.
In this study, we excluded patients aged less than 18 and
over 65, patients who arrived at the emergency
department (ED) 6 hours after the traumatic incident, pregnant
patients, patients with end-stage renal disease, and
patients with congestive heart failure. In addition, we also
excluded patients who underwent DCL after ICU
admission or later during their hospital stay. Only patients
who suffered from blunt or penetrating abdominal
trauma and were later sent to operation room (OR)
directly from the ED were enrolled for further analysis. We
defined late death as patients who died 48 hours or later
after DCL with successful hemostasis.
This was a retrospective study and was approved by the
local institutional review board of CGMH. The Trauma
Registration System of CGMH was started from May
2008. We selected patients fulfilling our criteria in the
database from May 2008 to June 2012. These patients all
suffered from abdominal trauma and damage control
laparotomies with gauze-packing. For the pre-registration
period, from January 2002 to April 2008, we accessed the
OR information system to retrieve the list of patients who
underwent emergent laparotomy and fulfilled our study
criteria. The medical and surgical data of these patients
were then reviewed. Fifty patients (survival vs. late death,
39 vs. 11) enrolled for further analysis (Figure 1).
Demographic data, clinical profile, laboratory data, and
radiologic reports were all evaluated by two surgical
residents and two attending surgeons. Patients identification,
mechanism of trauma, initial status in the ED, initial
laboratory data, transfusion volume, status when leaving the
ED, injury severity score (ISS), revised trauma score (RTS),
surgical conditions, significant ICU interventions,
diagnosis, and outcome were all extracted for further analysis.
All patients were categorized into 2 groups: the survival
group (n = 39) and the late death group (n = 11).
Comparisons between these 2 groups were performed first, and
significant factors from the univariable analysis were further
analyzed in a multivariable analysis.
This analysis used the SPSS statistical software package,
version 20.0. The MannWhitney U test was used to
evaluate numerical variables, and either the 2 test or
Fishers exact test was used for nominal data. Logistic
regression was used for the multivariable analysis.
Significance was defined as p < 0.05.
Demographic data and clinical conditions upon ED arrival
The demographic data and initial status when the
patients arrived at the ED were analyzed and are
summarized in Table 1. The initial body temperature, Glasgow
Coma Scale (GCS) less than 8, RTS, initial
cardiopulmonary and cerebral resuscitation (CPCR), pH, and base
excess (BE) were all noted with statistical significance. In
addition, the total numbers of laparotomies were similar
between the two groups.
Preoperative and intra-operative conditions are
summarized in Table 2. Except the preoperative GCS, the 2 study
groups showed no differences among the analyzed factors.
Although not statistically significant, the major bleeding
site seemed to be the liver (36.0% in the survival group vs.
45.5% in the late death group). In addition, the percentage
of patients with late death who underwent associate
procedures for hemostasis (thoracotomy or external fixation
for pelvic fracture) was greater than that of survival group
(36.5% vs. 8.3%, respectively).
ICU parameters and interventions
The analysis of the post-DCL ICU parameters is
summarized in Table 3. The most analyzed factors were the best
data recorded within 48 hours after DCL. Hemodialysis
BAT with packing surgery: 49
PAT with packing surgery: 8
BAT with packing surgery: 47
PAT with packing surgery: 4
Figure 1 Flowchart for the selection of the studied patients.
Table 1 Demographic data and initial ED condition of
Blunt injury (Y/N)
GCS < =8 (Y/N)
CPCR at ED (Y/N)
Statistical significant was defined as p < 0.05. SD, standard deviation; BT, Body
temperature; HR, Heart rate; RR, Respiratory rate; SBP, Systolic blood pressure;
DBP, Diastolic blood pressure; GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale; RTS, Revised trauma
score; CPCR, Cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation; Hb, Hemoglobin; BE, Base
excess; INR, International normalized ratio, for prothrombin time; ISS, Injury
and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) use
in our study refers to the applications of those modalities
at any time during the ICU course, while the accumulated
blood transfusion refers to volume of packed red blood
cells and whole blood that was administered in the b
agent, white cell count (WBC), lowest FiO2 use, INR, use
of hemodialysis or ECMO, and accumulated blood
transfusion volume were all noted with statistical significance.
Factors that were significant in abovementioned analyses
were further enrolled for multivariable analysis.
However, no significant variables were identified during
further logistic regression analysis. Even when we enrolled
only factors with p < 0.01, no factor remained statistically
and independently significant.
DCL is a life-saving procedure. When this procedure is
indicated, patients usually do not have any other choice for
Table 2 Preoperative status of patients
Survival Late death
(meanSD, n-=39) (meanSD, n=11)
124 35.4 128 37.5
Time to OR (min)
GCS < =8 (Y/N)
Major bleeding site
Perioperative TAE (Y/N)
Statistical significant was defined as p < 0.05. SD, Standard deviation; OR,
Operation room; HR, Heart rate; RR, Respiratory rate; SBP, Systolic blood
pressure; DBP, Diastolic blood pressure; GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale; TAE,
their treatment. The basic rationale of DCL is for
hemorrhage and contamination control at the early,
lifethreatening period. After the DCL, the clinicians then
return patients to relatively stable conditions, so the patients
can undergo definitive surgical treatment at the next stage.
Even with the development of new strategies to manage
and resuscitate patients with severe trauma [8,9] and the
lack of high level supporting evidence , DCL still plays
an important role in trauma care, even though some
clinicians have reflected on its futility [11,12].
Although DCL can bridge a patient with exsanguination
from a devastating condition to a stage for definitive
treatment, some patients still succumb to their critical
condition even after successful hemostasis. In this study, we
explored the factors that influenced patients outcomes
after initially successful hemostasis. Our analysis included
3 different parts: demographic data and clinical conditions
upon arrival at the ED, perioperative conditions, and early
ICU parameters and intervention. In the univariable
analysis, most of the significant factors were noted in the
initial ED stage and the early ICU stage, while an analysis of
perioperative factors revealed minimal survival impact.
Initial hypoperfusion (pH, BE, and GCS level) and initial
poor physiological conditions (body temperature, RTS,
and CPCR at ED) may contribute to a patients final
outcome. These factors are similar to the risk factors that
were proposed by previous studies [13,14], while RTS itself
has served as a surrogate for survival prediction [15,16].
Table 3 Early clinical parameters and organ support
system application in ICU
Survival Late death
(mean SD, n = 39) (mean SD, n = 11)
14.8 1.33 22.4 3.19
Best GCS > = 8 (Y/N)
Best PaO2 (mmHg)
Lowest FiO2 (%)
Total bilirubin (mg/dl)
ECMO use (Y/N)
Duration of laparotomy
wound opened (days)
SD, Standard deviation; APACHI II, Acute physiology and chronic health
evaluation II; GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale; PaO2, Arterial oxygen tension; FiO2,
Fraction of inspiration oxygen; WBC, White cell count; Hb, Hemoglobin; PLT,
Platelet; INR, International normalized ratio, for prothrombin time; ECMO,
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; DCL, Damage control laparotomy.
Table 4 Summary of patients with mortality
The parameters recorded during the initial ICU
admission represent the clinical conditions immediately after
DCL. In addition to physiological and laboratory
parameters, accumulated blood transfusion volumes, which
was previously observed , and the use of inotropic
agents also predict a dismal outcome. We also included
use of organ support system in our analysis.
Hemodialysis and ECMO applications are inevitable
interventions for patients with life-threatening organ
failure or temporary, irreversible organ function. In our
study, all the studied subjects did not have predisposing
organ failure. All conditions with organ failure and later
hemodialysis or ECMO application were related to the
deterioration of clinical course.
In our study, 11 subjects did not survive. We
summarized the clinical profiles of these patients (Table 4).
Almost half of these patients finally died due to brain
death (4 patients due to initial brain injury, and 1 patient
due to hypoxic encephalopathy). For these patients who
died of brain death, 80% (4/5) died within the first week
of admission (mean hospital stay, 6 days; median
hospital stay, 4 days). For the other 6 patients, 5 of them
died from infectious complication (4 from
intraabdominal origin, and 1 patient from low respiratory
tract infection). Although a previous study identified low
respiratory tract infection as the most common  type
of post-DCL infection, intra-abdominal infection may
contribute lethal effect to patients. Case #3 in Table 4
was a patient with Child A cirrhosis due to alcoholic
hepatitis. He suffered from concurrent and relative low
grade hepatic and splenic injury, which is why low ISS
ED II N 57 21 OP times
Sepsis with intra-abdominal
Hepatic failure (13)
Brain stem failure (6)
Sepsis due to pneumonia (31)
Sepsis with intra-abdominal
Brain stem failure (14)
Brain stem failure (4)
Brian stem failure (4)
Sepsis due to intra-abdominal
* Amount of total packed red blood cell and whole blood transfusion before ICU admission. GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale; RTS, Revised trauma score; CPCR,
Cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation; ISS, Injury severity score; APACHI II, Acute physiology and chronic health evaluation II; OP, Operation; HD, Hemodialysis;
ECMO, Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
was noted. Although methods of laparotomy wound
management and timing of abdominal closure after DCL
influence the clinical outcome , these factors could
not be well assessed in our series due to the small
number of patients. In addition, patients who succumbed to
infectious complications were typically older (Table 4).
According to our study, late death for patients
undergoing DCL may be attributed to an initial brain insult or
an infectious complication, especially intra-abdominal
Some previous studies proposed prediction factors or
established prediction models for outcome prediction.
However, most of these studies focused on overall clinical
outcome [13,14,18,20]. No study has specifically
emphasized the cause of death after hemostasis was achieved.
These studies may be lacking due to the difficulty of
performing these studies that assess DCL. Due to the
improvement of non-operative treatment for abdominal
trauma, especially for solid organ injury with internal
hemorrhage, laparotomy is now not the only treatment
option. This progress has made collecting suitable subjects
difficult. In addition, heterogeneity has also been a big
hurdle for analysis. Furthermore, a prospective study is
likely impossible in this critical situation. Together, these
unfavorable factors have contributed to the lack of high
quality studies on this topic. In our study, we tried to
eliminate the heterogeneity by enrolling only patients who
were sent to the OR directly from the ED and who were
injured within 6 hours of admission. In addition, we also
eliminated patients who underwent DCL at another
hospital and were then transferred to our hospital. However,
we were still unable to obtain enough subjects for delicate
statistical analyses, even when we attempted to use
stringent rules by applying non-parametric analyses. Further,
the multivariable analysis could not identify any
independent risk factor because of the small size of the study
sample. Finally, the studied subjects were observed over a
10year period, and the impact of new medical and surgical
progress may not be totally ignored.
According to our study, the risk factors of late death for
patients undergoing DCL may include both the initial
status related to the trauma and the clinical conditions after
DCL. In our series, the causes of death for patients with
late mortality included an initial brain insult and later
infectious complications. However, our study was unable to
identify independent and statistically significant risk
factors by multivariable analysis. The collection of more
study subjects should be considered for future in depth
DCL: Damage control laparotomy; ICU: Intensive care unit; TAE: Trans-arterial
embolization; CGNH: Chang Gung memorial hospital; ED: Emergency
department; OR: Operating room; ISS: Injury severity score; RTS: Revised
trauma score; GCS: Glasgow coma scale; CPCR: Cardiopulmonary and
cerebral resuscitation; BE: Base excess; ECMO: Extracorporeal membrane
oxygenation; APACHE II: Acute physiology and chronic health evaluation II;
WBC: White cell count.
Our co-authors report no personal conflicts of interest related to the study,
and there was no funding from either the public or private sector related to
All authors have made substantive contributions to the study: Study
conception and design: L-ML, S-HW, and C-YF. Acquisition of data: C-HL,
I-MK, S-CK, and S-WC. Analysis and interpretation of data: S-YW, C-HO, and
Y-PH. Manuscript drafting: L-ML, S-HW, C-NY. Critical revision: S-HW and S-JY.
All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors thank the trauma registration database of CGMH and database
managers Chun-Ju Chen, Fen-Ping, Kao, and Hui-Chen Tien for their help.
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