It is time to look in the mirror: Individual surgeon outcomes after emergent trauma laparotomy

Parker Hu*, Jan O. Jansen, Rindi Uhlich, Zain G. Hashmi, Rondi B. Gelbard, Jeffrey Kerby, Daniel Cox, John B. Holcomb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Multiple quality indicators are used by trauma programs to decrease variation and improve outcomes. However, little if any provider level outcomes related to surgical procedures are reviewed. Emergent trauma laparotomy (ETL) is arguably the signature case that trauma surgeons perform on a regular basis, but few data exist to facilitate benchmarking of individual surgeon outcomes. As part of our comprehensive performance improvement program, we examined outcomes by surgeon for those who routinely perform ETL. METHODS A retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing ETL directly from the trauma bay by trauma faculty from December 2019 to February 2021 was conducted. Patients were excluded from mortality analysis if they required resuscitative thoracotomy for arrest before ETL. Surgeons were compared by rates of damage control and mortality at multiple time points. RESULTS There were 242 ETL (7-32 ETLs per surgeon) performed by 14 faculties. Resuscitative thoracotomy was performed in 7.0% (n = 17) before ETL. Six patients without resuscitative thoracotomy died intraoperatively and damage-control laparotomy was performed on 31.9% (n = 72 of 226 patients). Mortality was 4.0% (n = 9) at 24 hours and 7.1% (n = 16) overall. Median Injury Severity Score (p = 0.21), new injury severity score (p = 0.21), and time in emergency department were similar overall among surgeons (p = 0.15), while operative time varied significantly (40-469 minutes; p = 0.005). There were significant differences between rates of individual surgeon's mortality (range [hospital mortality], 0-25%) and damage-control laparotomy (range, 14-63%) in ETL. CONCLUSION Significant differences exist in outcomes by surgeon after ETL. Benchmarking surgeon level performance is a necessary natural progression of quality assurance programs for individual trauma centers. Additional data from multiple centers will be vital to allow for development of more granular quality metrics to foster introspective case review and quality improvement. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic/care management, level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-780
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Laparotomy
  • quality improvement
  • surgeon


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