In a prospective, randomized trial the safety and cost-effectiveness of selective nonoperative management was compared to mandatory laparotomy in patients with abdominal stab wounds not requiring immediate laparotomy for hemodynamic instability, generalized peritonitis, or evisceration of abdominal contents. Fifty-one patients were randomly assigned to mandatory laparotomy or expectant nonoperative management and compared for early (<90 days) mortality and morbidity, length of hospital stay, and hospital costs. There was no early mortality. The morbidity rate was 19% following mandatory laparotomy and 8% after observation (p = 0.26). Four patients (17%) managed nonoperatively required delayed laparotomy. The hospital stay was shorter in the observation group (median 2 days versus 5 days;p = 0.002). About $2800 (US) was saved for every patient who underwent successful nonoperative management. It is concluded that selective nonoperative management of abdominal stab wounds, although resulting in delayed laparotomy in some patients, is safe and the preferred strategy for minimizing the days in hospital with concomitant savings in hospital costs. Mandatory laparotomy detects some unexpected organ injuries earlier and more accurately but results in a high nontherapeutic laparotomy rate and surgical management of minor injuries that in many cases could be managed nonoperatively.
View details for PubMedID 8798372