Two hundred forty-two patients underwent diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) over a 12-month period. One hundred sixteen patients (48%) were randomized to an open lavage technique and 126 (52%) to a percutaneous (closed) guide wire procedure. The closed procedure required an average of 16 minutes to complete with one operator, whereas the open method required two operators and an average time of 26 minutes (p<0.001). Technical complications occurred in 31 patients undergoing closed lavage (25%) and 4 patients undergoing open lavage (3%) (p<0.01). Fifty-eight percent of the closed lavage complications were related to fluid return and 42% to guide wire placement. All the open lavage complications were caused by inadequate fluid return. These data do not support the initial use of percutaneous lavage. The open technique is favored and certainly used when the closed method fails or when direct visualization of the peritoneal cavity is indicated. Physicians involved in the management of abdominal trauma must be familiar with both methods of DPL.
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