Traumatic Injury of the Abdominal Cavity

What is injury of the abdominal cavity?

Injury of the abdominal cavity is a condition where there is damage to the internal organs of the abdomen. This often results from trauma, for examples car accidents, fighting and biting, falling from heights etc. This can be classified into penetrating abdominal trauma, where there is visible open wound reaching into the abdominal cavity and blunt abdominal trauma, where the skin and muscles are not torn through.

What happens if my pet has traumatic injury of the abdominal cavity?

Abdominal organs are fragile and susceptible to traumatic injuries, which can result in organ or vessel rupture, internal bleeding, urine in abdomen and even septic peritonitis in gut rupture. 

Symptoms vary with severity of the trauma experienced by your pet. Rapid breathing and heart beat, depression and weakness are some of the early signs. You can see pain, typically when the pet whimpers on movement or being touched, or arches back stretching the tummy. Gastrointestinal signs include vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes blood-red or black). In serious cases distended abdomen, pale or purple gum colour or loss of consciousness can be seen. Your pet may go into collapse with too much bleeding and sepsis (spread of infection) can occur with delayed appropriate treatment. If you see any of the above, especially with suspicion of a traumatic event, bring your pet to the vet immediately.

How is this diagnosed and treated?

Your pet will be evaluated and started on stabilisation or resuscitation procedures if needed. Radiographs and ultrasound are performed to visualise if there is damaged, displaced organ or free fluid in the abdomen. Abdominocentesis is performed to collect the fluid and identify the source of organ rupture. Comprehensive blood work and blood pressure monitoring are often needed to assess the health status and guide on treatment plan. 

Pain medications, fluid therapy, oxygen supplementation, sedation or general anaesthesia are required. If there is ongoing bleeding or significant organ damage, exploratory laparotomy surgery is indicated to identify and address the source. Medications to help with blood coagulation or blood transfusion may be needed in severe cases of blood loss and bleeding disorder. In penetrating abdominal trauma, the wound will be decontaminated and assessed. Hospitalisation is likely required for patients with abdominal trauma to allow close monitoring and intensive care.

Traumatic Injury of the Abdominal Cavity
Traumatic Injury of the Abdominal Cavity

Patient Stories