The spectrum of blunt abdominal trauma in Pietermaritzburg
Background: This study reviews the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service (PMTS) experience with the management of blunt abdominal trauma (BAT).
Methods: A retrospective review of the hybrid electronic medical registry (HEMR) between December 2012 and September 2019 was conducted. All patients admitted following BAT were included.
Results: During the study period, 1 123 BAT patients were managed by the PMTS. The mean age was 29.19 years (SD 14.03). Of these admissions, 73.6% were male. The most common mechanism was road traffic crashes (RTCs) – 435 motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) and 250 pedestrian vehicle collisions (PVCs). There were 186 assaults, 118 falls, 62 community assaults, 22 accidents related to agriculture, construction or industry, 11 sporting injuries, nine animal injuries, seven patients injured by falling objects, five injured by trains, two hangings, one burn-related fall and two other causes. The mechanism of injury was unknown in 22 cases. There were 445 abdominal CT scans and 270 whole body CT scans. Surgical management was required for 395 patients. There were 259 index laparotomies and 176 repeat laparotomies. Four patients underwent selective arterial embolisation. Laparoscopy was undertaken in ten, and subsequently converted to laparotomy in five. There were 106 orthopaedic operations. Hospital stay ranged from 0–155 days (median stay three days). ICU admission was required in 24.9% of patients. The mortality rate was 7.5%.
Conclusion: BAT is common in South Africa. Whilst the vast majority of patients require non-operative treatment, a welldefined subset require a laparotomy. Imaging is central to the management of patients with BAT.
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