Characteristics of Combat-Associated Small Bowel Injuries

Mariya E. Skube, Quinn Mallery, Elizabeth Lusczek, Joel Elterman, Mary A. Spott, Greg J. Beilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: Although there are multiple studies regarding the management and outcomes of colonic injuries incurred in combat, the literature is limited with regard to small bowel injuries. This study seeks to provide the largest reported review of the characteristics of combat-associated small bowel injuries. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The Department of Defense Trauma Registry was queried for U.S. Armed Forces members who sustained hollow viscus injuries in the years 2007-2012 during Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. Concomitant injuries, procedures, and complications were delineated. Fisher's exact test was used to analyze the relationship of bowel injury pattern to rates of repeat laparotomy, fecal diversion, and complications. RESULTS: One hundred seventy-one service members had small bowel injuries. The mean age was 25.8 ± 6.6 yr with a mean injury severity score of 27.9 ± 12.4. The majority of injuries were penetrating (94.2%, n = 161) as a result of explosive devices (61.4%, n = 105). The median blood transfusion requirement in the first 24 h was 6.0 units (interquartile range 1.0-17.3 units). The most frequent concomitant injuries were large bowel (64.3%, n = 110), pelvic fracture (35.7%, n = 61), and perineal (26.3%, n = 45). Fifty patients (29.2%) had a colostomy, and nine patients (5.3%) had an ileostomy; 62.6% (n = 107) of soldiers underwent more than one laparotomy. The mortality rate was 1.8% (n = 3). The most common complications were pneumonia (15.2%, n = 26), deep vein thrombosis (14.6%, n = 25), and wound infection (14.6%, n = 25). The need for repeat laparotomy and fecal diversion was found to be significantly associated with injury pattern (p = 0.00052 and p < 0.0001, respectively). CONCLUSION: We found that two-thirds of service members with small bowel injuries also had a large bowel injury. One-third of the patients required diversion and two-thirds had more than one laparotomy. The pattern of bowel injury significantly affected the need for repeat laparotomy and fecal diversion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e454-e459
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


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