Indications and Outcomes for Non-Trauma Emergency Laparotomy: A Comparison of Rwanda, South Africa, and the USA



Emergency conditions requiring exploratory laparotomy (EL) can be challenging. The objective of this study is to describe indications, outcomes, and risk factors for perioperative mortality (POMR) after non-trauma EL.


This was a prospective study of patients undergoing non-trauma EL at four hospitals in Rwanda, South Africa, and the USA. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine factors associated with POMR.


Over one year, there were 632 EL with the most common indications appendicitis (n = 133, 21%), peptic ulcer disease (PUD) (n = 101, 16%), and hernia (n = 74, 12%). In Rwanda, the most common indications were appendicitis (n = 41, 19%) and hernia (n = 37, 17%); in South Africa appendicitis (n = 91, 28%) and PUD (n = 60, 19%); and in the USA, PUD (n = 16, 19%) and adhesions from small bowel obstruction (n = 16, 19%).

POMR was 11%, with no difference between countries (Rwanda 7%, South Africa 12%, US 16%, p = 0.173). Risk factors associated with increased odds of POMR included typhoid intestinal perforation (adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 16.48; 95% confidence interval (CI): 4.31, 62.98; p value < 0.001), mesenteric ischemia (aOR: 13.77, 95% CI: 4.21, 45.08, p value < 0.001), cancer (aOR: 5.84, 95% CI: 2.43, 14.05, p value < 0.001), other diagnoses (aOR: 3.97, 95% CI: 3.03, 5.20, p value < 0.001), high ASA score (score ≥ 3) (aOR: 3.95, 95% CI: 3.03, 5.15, p value < 0.001), peptic ulcer disease (aOR: 2.82, 95% CI: 1.64, 4.85, p value < 0.001), age > 60 years (aOR: 2.32, 95% CI: 1.41, 3.83, p value = 0.001), and ICU admission (aOR: 2.23, 95% CI: 1.24, 3.99, p value = 0.007). Surgery in the US was associated with decreased odds of POMR (aOR: 0.41, 95% CI: 0.21, 0.80, p value = 0.009).


Indications for EL vary between countries and POMR is high. Differences in mortality were associated with patient and disease characteristics with certain diagnoses associated with increased risk of mortality. Understanding the risk factors and outcomes for patients with EL can assist providers in judicious patient selection, both for patient counselling and resource allocation.

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Funding for this study was provided by a University of Cape Town International Collaborative Research Project Grant. Funding for this project is provided by the University of Minnesota Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility Faculty Travel Awards Program and the University of Minnesota Global Programs and Strategy Alliance International Travel Grant Fund. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grant UL1TR002494. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

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Correspondence to Jennifer Rickard.

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Rickard, J., Pohl, L., Abahuje, E. et al. Indications and Outcomes for Non-Trauma Emergency Laparotomy: A Comparison of Rwanda, South Africa, and the USA. World J Surg (2020).

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