Outcomes of Exploratory Laparotomy and Abdominal Infections Among Combat Casualties

Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program Trauma Infectious Disease Outcomes Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Abdominal injuries historically account for 13% of battlefield surgical procedures. We examined the occurrence of exploratory laparotomies and subsequent abdominal surgical site infections (SSIs) among combat casualties. Methods: Military personnel injured during deployment (2009-2014) were included if they required a laparotomy for combat-related trauma and were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, before being transferred to participating US military hospitals. Results: Of 4304 combat casualties, 341 (7.9%) underwent laparotomy. Including re-explorations, 1053 laparotomies (median, 2; interquartile range, 1-3; range, 1-28) were performed with 58% occurring within the combat zone. Forty-nine (14.4%) patients had abdominal SSIs (four with multiple SSIs): 27 (7.9%) with deep space SSIs, 14 (4.1%) with a deep incisional SSI, and 12 (3.5%) a superficial incisional SSI. Patients with abdominal SSIs had larger volume of blood transfusions (median, 24 versus 14 units), more laparotomies (median, 4 versus 2), and more hollow viscus injuries (74% versus 45%) than patients without abdominal SSIs. Abdominal closure occurred after 10 d for 12% of the patients with SSI versus 2% of patients without SSI. Mesh adjuncts were used to achieve fascial closure in 20.4% and 2.1% of patients with and without SSI, respectively. Survival was 98% and 96% in patients with and without SSIs, respectively. Conclusions: Less than 10% of combat casualties in the modern era required abdominal exploration and most were severely injured with hollow viscus injuries and required massive transfusions. Despite the extensive contamination from battlefield injuries, the SSI proportion is consistent with civilian rates and survival was high.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Abdominal surgical site infection
  • Combat-related
  • Deep space surgical site infection
  • Exploratory laparotomy
  • Trauma-related infection


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