UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Trauma

Title: Rural damage control laparotomy can be life saving

Keywords: rural, trauma, laparotomy, damage control (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/19/2023 by Robert Flint, MD (Emailed: 9/10/2023) (Updated: 6/21/2024)
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For rural emergency departments, the decision to transfer a trauma patient to a level one center involves multiple factors including the patient’s hemodynamic stability. Harwell et al. looked at 47 trauma patients transferred from a rural hospital to a level one center. They found: “Overall mortality was significantly different between patients who had damage control laparotomy at a rural hospital (14.3%), were unstable transfer patients (75.0%), and stable transfer patients (3.3%; P < 0.001).”  They concluded: “Rural damage control laparotomy may be used as a means of stabilization prior to transfer to a Level 1 center, and in appropriate patients may be life-saving.”

Preplanning with emergency medicine, surgery, radiology, anesthesia, nursing, and the receiving trauma center on how to manage these patients is critical.  


Harwell PA, Reyes J, Helmer SD, Haan JM. Outcomes of rural trauma patients who undergo damage control laparotomy. Am J Surg. 2019 Sep;218(3):490-495. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Jan 10. PMID: 30685052.