Improving outcomes following penetrating colon wounds: Application of a clinical pathway

Preston R. Miller, Timothy C. Fabian, Martin A. Croce, Louis J. Magnotti, Elizabeth F. Pritchard, Gayle Minard, Ronald M. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Introduction: During World War II, failure to treat penetrating colon injuries with diversion could result in court martial. Based on this war-time experience, colostomy for civilian colon wounds became the standard of care for the next 4 decades. Previous work from our institution demonstrated that primary repair was the optimal management for nondestructive colon wounds. Optimal management of destructive wounds requiring resection remains controversial. To address this issue, we performed a study that demonstrated risk factors (pre or intraoperative transfusion requirement of more than 6 units of packed red blood cells, significant comorbid diseases) that were associated with a suture line failure rate of 14%, and of whom 33% died. Based on these outcomes, a clinical pathway for management of destructive colon wounds was developed. The results of the implementation of this pathway are the focus of this report. Methods: Patients with penetrating colon injury were identified from the registry of a level I trauma center over a 5-year period. Records were reviewed for demographics, injury characteristics, and outcome. Patients with nondestructive injuries underwent primary repair. Patients with destructive wounds but no comorbidities or large transfusion requirement underwent resection and anastomosis, while patients with destructive wounds and significant medical illness or transfusion requirements of more than 6 units/blood received end colostomy. The current patients (CP) were compared to the previous study (PS) to determine the impact of the clinical pathway. Outcomes examined included colon related mortality and morbidity (suture line leak and abscess). Results: Over a 5.5-year period, 231 patients had penetrating colon wounds. 209 survived more 24 hours and comprise the study population. Primary repair was performed on 153 (73%) patients, and 56 patients had destructive injuries (27%). Of these, 40 (71%) had resection and anastomosis and 16 (29%) had diversion. More destructive injuries were managed in the CP group (27% vs. 19%). Abscess rate was lower in the CP group (27% vs. 37%), as was suture line leak rate (7% vs. 14%). Colon related mortality in the CP group was 5% as compared with 12% in the PS group. Conclusions: The clinical pathway for destructive colon wound management has improved outcomes as measured by anastomotic leak rates and colon related mortality. The data demonstrated the need for colostomy in the face of shock and comorbidities. Institution of this pathway results in colostomy for only 7% of all colon wounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-781
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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