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Copyright © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. Objectives: To characterize and evaluate indications for use of damage control (DC) surgery in civilian trauma patients. Background: Although DC surgery may improve survival in select, severely injured patients, the procedure is associated with significant morbidity, suggesting that it should be used only when appropriately indicated. Methods: Two investigators used an abbreviated grounded theory method to synthesize indications for DC surgery reported in peer-reviewed articles between 1983 and 2014 into a reduced number of named, content-characteristic codes representing unique indications. An international panel of trauma surgery experts (n = 9) then rated the appropriateness (expected benefit-to-harm ratio) of the coded indications for use in surgical practice. Results: The 1107 indications identified in the literature were synthesized into 123 unique pre- (n = 36) and intraoperative (n = 87) indications. The panel assessed 101 (82.1%) of these indications to be appropriate. The indications most commonly reported and assessed to be appropriate included pre- and intraoperative hypothermia (median temperature <34°C), acidosis (median pH <7.2), and/or coagulopathy. Others included 5 different injury patterns, inability to control bleeding by conventional methods, administration of a large volume of packed red blood cells (median >10 units), inability to close the abdominal wall without tension, development of abdominal compartment syndrome during attempted abdominal wall closure, and need to reassess extent of bowel viability. Conclusions: This study identified a comprehensive list of candidate indications for use of DC surgery. These indications provide a practical foundation to guide surgical practice while studies are conducted to evaluate their impact on patient care and outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


Annals of Surgery

Publication Date





1018 - 1027