What is the role of laparoscopic abscess drainage in the treatment of abdominal abscess?

Updated: Mar 27, 2020
  • Author: Alan A Saber, MD, MS, FACS, FASMBS; Chief Editor: John Geibel, MD, MSc, DSc, AGAF  more...
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If percutaneous drainage fails or if collections are not amenable to catheter drainage, surgical drainage is an option. The surgical approach may be either laparoscopic or open (laparotomic).

Laparoscopic drainage for a massive intra-abdominal abscess is minimally invasive, permitting exploration of the abdominal cavity without the use of a wide incision; purulent exudate can be aspirated under direct vision. [15]

With accurate preoperative localization, direct open surgical drainage may be possible through an extraperitoneal open approach. This technique reduces the risk of bowel injury, contamination spread, and bleeding. It also allows for a faster return of bowel function.

The transperitoneal open approach is made safer by the judicious use of preoperative antibiotics. Although contamination of otherwise uninfected sites remains a major concern, this complication is particularly reduced if the organisms involved are sensitive to the chosen drugs. Transabdominal exploration of the entire peritoneal cavity allows fibrin debridement. It also permits complete bowel mobilization to locate and drain all synchronous abscesses, which occur in as many as 23% of patients.

Transperitoneal exploration is indicated for multiple abscesses not amenable to CT-guided drainage, such as interloop collections or an enteric fistula feeding the abscess. In the latter situation, draining the abscesses with an enteric communication may be possible for several days before a laparotomy is performed to control the fistula. This may allow some resolution of the inflammatory process, thus making surgery less difficult.

Pelvic abscesses often are palpable as tender, fluctuant masses impinging on the vagina or rectum. Draining these abscesses transvaginally or transrectally is best to avoid the transabdominal approach.

During the course of a laparotomy, the surgeon must use digital or direct exploration to be certain that all loculations are broken down and that all debris (eg, hematoma, necrotic tissue) is evacuated. Irrigation must be complete, and a Penrose or sump drain should be placed to allow continued evacuation and collapse of the abscess cavity postoperatively.

Improved clinical findings within 3 days after treatment indicate successful drainage. Failure to improve may indicate inadequate drainage or another source of sepsis. If left untreated, the septic state inevitably produces multiple organ failure.

The transabdominal open approach to intra-abdominal abscesses can be exceedingly difficult. Matted bowel, adhesions, and loss of anatomic integrity can pose severe problems. This is especially true when susceptible viscera, such as a loop of small bowel, intermittently adhere to the abscess wall or cavity. Therefore, whenever possible, CT-guided drainage is a valuable initial step.

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