Blunt Abdominal Trauma

What is Blunt Abdominal Trauma

Blunt abdominal trauma is a type of injury that involves damage to the abdominal wall or to abdominal organs, such as the liver or spleen.

The damage can involve bruising, tearing, or a rupture. This type of injury does not involve a puncture of the skin.

Blunt abdominal trauma can range from mild to severe. In some cases it can lead to a severe abdominal inflammation (peritonitis), severe bleeding, and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

What are the causes?

This injury is caused by a hard, direct hit to the abdomen. It can happen after:

  • A motor vehicle accident.
  • Being kicked or punched in the abdomen.
  • Falling from a significant height.

What increases the risk?

This injury is more likely to happen in people who:

  • Play contact sports.
  • Work in a job in which falls or injuries are more likely, such as in construction.

What are the signs or symptoms?

The main symptom of this condition is pain in the abdomen. Other symptoms depend on the type and location of the injury. They can include:

  • Abdominal pain that spreads to the the back or shoulder.
  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Pain when pressing on the abdomen.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Pale, dusky, cool, or sweaty skin.
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Bloody stool or bleeding from the rectum.
  • Trouble breathing.

Symptoms of this injury can develop suddenly or slowly.

How is this diagnosed?

This injury is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam. You may also have tests, including:

  • Blood tests.
  • Urine tests.
  • Imaging tests, such as:
    • A CT scan and ultrasound of your abdomen.
    • X-rays of your chest and abdomen.
  • A test in which a tube is used to flush your abdomen with fluid and check for blood (diagnostic peritoneal lavage).

How is this treated?

Treatment for this injury depends on its type and severity. Treatment options include:

  • Observation. If the injury is mild, this may be the only treatment needed.
  • Support of your blood pressure and breathing.
  • Getting blood, fluids, or medicine through an IV tube.
  • Antibiotic medicine.
  • Insertion of tubes into the stomach or bladder.
  • A blood transfusion.
  • A procedure to stop bleeding. This involves putting a long, thin tube (catheter) into one of your blood vessels (angiographic embolization).
  • Surgery to open up your abdomen and control bleeding or repair damage (laparotomy). This may be done if tests suggest that you have peritonitis or bleeding that cannot be controlled with angiographic embolization.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take medicines only as directed by your health care provider.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, finish all of it even if you start to feel better.
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions about diet and activity restrictions.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You continue to have abdominal pain.
  • Your symptoms return.
  • You develop new symptoms.
  • You have blood in your urine or your bowel movements.

Get help right away if:

  • You vomit blood.
  • You have heavy bleeding from your rectum.
  • You have very bad abdominal pain.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have dizziness.
  • You pass out.
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