The effect of systematic factors on the outcome of trauma laparotomy at a major trauma centre in South Africa

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The aim of this study was to examine and interrogate outcomes in trauma laparotomy in a South African trauma centre to determine whether systematic factors were associated with any discrepancies in outcome.


This was a retrospective review of a prospectively entered trauma registry undertaken at the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The service has developed a hybrid electronic medical record system (HEMR) where clinical data were captured in real time, which were incorporated this into a database.


During the period from December 2012 to July 2016, 562 patients underwent emergency laparotomy for trauma and the time and date of surgery was recorded in the HEMR. The mean age of all patients was 29.5 years.


There were 256 operations during the weekend or over a public holiday, with a mortality of 8% (n = 21) compared with 306 during the week (mortality of 10%, n = 31). This difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.237). A total of 327 operations were performed at night (18:00 - 08:00) and 235 operations were performed during the day (08:00-18:00 Hours). This was a significant difference in mortality (10% (33) vs 7 % (16), P=0.013) These differences persisted if weekends and public holidays were separated out from normal working days. A total of 188 operations were performed on a week night, with a mortality of 11% (n = 20) and 121 operations were performed during a week day, with a mortality of 8% (n = 10). There were 139 operations on a weekend or public holiday night, with a mortality of 9% (n = 13). A total of 114 operations were performed on a weekend or public holiday day with a mortality of 7% (n = 8). A total of 208 procedures were performed with an consultant present. Of these, 32 patients (15%) died. A total of 368 procedures were performed without a consultant present and 8 (2%) died.


This study demonstrated a discrepancy in outcome for trauma laparotomy, depending on whether the operation was performed at night or during the day. The reasons for this are unclear, although the lack of consultant presence at night in comparison to during the day appears to be implicated.

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