Objective: To evaluate the safety of a policy of selective nonoperative management (SNOM) in patients with abdominal gunshot wounds. Summary Background Data: Selective nonoperative management is practiced extensively in stab wounds and blunt abdominal trauma, but routine laparotomy is still the standard of care in abdominal gunshot wounds. Methods: The authors reviewed the medical records of 1,856 patients with abdominal gunshot wounds (1,405 anterior, 451 posterior) admitted during an 8-year period in a busy academic level 1 trauma center and managed by SNOM. According to this policy, patients who did not have peritonitis, were hemodynamically stable, and had a reliable clinical examination were observed. Results: Initially, 792 (42%) patients (34% of patients with anterior and 68% with posterior abdominal gunshot wounds) were selected for nonoperative management. During observation 80 (4%) patients developed symptoms and required a delayed laparotomy, which revealed organ injuries requiring repair in 57. Five (0.3%) patients suffered complications potentially related to the delay in laparotomy, which were managed successfully. Seven hundred twelve (38%) patients were successfully managed without an operation. The rate of unnecessary laparotomy was 14% among operated patients (or 9% among all patients). If patients were managed by routine laparotomy, the unnecessary laparotomy rate would have been 47% (39% for anterior and 74% for posterior abdominal gunshot wounds). Compared with patients with unnecessary laparotomy, patients managed without surgery had significantly shorter hospital stays and lower hospital charges. By maintaining a policy of SNOM instead of routine laparotomy, a total of 3,560 hospital days and $9,555,752 in hospital charges were saved over the period of the study. Conclusion: Selective nonoperative management is a safe method for managing patients with abdominal gunshot wounds in a level 1 trauma center with an in-house trauma team. It reduces significantly the rate of unnecessary laparotomy and hospital charges.
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