Leaving contaminated trauma laparotomy wounds open reduces wound infections but does not add value

Andrew Acker, Jennifer Leonard, Mark J. Seamon, Daniel N. Holena, Jose Pascual, Brian P. Smith, Patrick M. Reilly, Niels D. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The incidence of surgical site infection (SSI) has become a key quality indicator following clean and clean/contaminated surgical procedures. In contrast, contaminated and dirty wounds have garnered little attention with this quality metric because of the expected higher complication incidence. We hypothesized that wound management strategies in this high-risk population vary significantly and might not add value to the overall care. Materials and methods: This is a retrospective, observational study of trauma patients who underwent an exploratory laparotomy at an urban, academic, level 1 trauma center from 2014 to 2016. Deaths before hospital discharge were excluded. Wounds were classified using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition on review of the operative reports. SSI was determined by review of the medical record, also per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition. Wound management strategies were categorized as either primary skin closure or closure by secondary intention. Outcomes were compared using Chi square or Kruskal–Wallis test. Results: There were 128 patients who met study criteria. Fifty-five (42.9%) wounds were left open to close by secondary intention. In the wounds that were closed primarily (n = 73), eight (10.9%) developed an SSI. There were significant differences in the average length of stay (25.0 versus 11.6 d, P = 0.032), number of office visits (3.0 versus 1.8, P = 0.008), and time from last laparotomy to the last wound care office visit (112.8 versus 57.4, P = 0.012) between patients who were treated with secondary intention closure compared to those closed primarily who did not suffer from SSI. Conclusions: There is significant incidence of SSI in contaminated and dirty traumatic abdominal wounds; however, wound management strategies vary widely within this cohort. Closure by secondary intention requires significantly more resource utilization. Isolating risk factors for SSI may allow additional patients to undergo primary skin closure and avoid the morbidity of closure by secondary intention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-455
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Colonic injury
  • Contaminated wounds
  • Dirty wounds
  • Open wounds
  • Surgical site infection
  • Trauma
  • Value


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