Selective Management of Penetrating Truncal Injuries: Is Emergency Department Discharge a Reasonable Goal?

Conrad, Mark F.; Patton Jr., Joe H.; Parikshak, Manesh; Kralovich, Kurt A.
March 2003
American Surgeon;Mar2003, Vol. 69 Issue 3, p266
Academic Journal
We undertook this retrospective review to examine the appropriateness of a protocol for the selective emergency department (ED) workup of asymptomatic penetrating truncal injuries. Records of consecutive patients presenting to our urban Level I trauma center with penetrating truncal injuries between January 1, 1997 and September 2000 were reviewed. Data obtained included: patient demographics, ED workup, ED disposition, complications, and follow-up. Selective ED workup included hospital triple-contrast CT, admission for observation, and local wound exploration for selected anterior abdominal stab wounds. Four hundred fifty-five patients presented with penetrating truncal wounds during the study period. One hundred ninety-four patients were taken directly to the operating room, 136 were discharged based solely on physical examination and plain radiographs, 18 were admitted for observation without ED workup, and 107 had selective ED workup. Sixty-two patients (58% of those selectively worked up) were discharged home after negative ED workup, 18 were managed operatively, and 27 were managed nonoperatively. There were two missed injuries that were later identified and managed with no complications. Follow-up was available on 66 per cent of ED workup patients (range 1-42 months). We conclude that selective management of certain penetrating truncal injuries appears appropriate. Patients having a negative selective ED workup can be safely discharged thereby avoiding the cost and resource utilization associated with hospital admission.


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