Diagnostic peritoneal lavage
Other namesDiagnostic peritoneal aspiration

Diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) or diagnostic peritoneal aspiration (DPA) is a surgical diagnostic procedure to determine if there is free floating fluid (most often blood) in the abdominal cavity.[1]


This procedure is performed when intra-abdominal bleeding (hemoperitoneum), usually secondary to trauma, is suspected.[2] In a hemodynamically unstable patient with high-risk mechanism of injury, peritoneal lavage is a means of rapidly diagnosing intra-abdominal injury requiring laparotomy, but has largely been replaced in trauma care by the use of a focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST scan) due to its repeatability, non-invasiveness and non-interference with subsequent computed tomography (CT scan). Abdominal CT and contrast duodenography may complement lavage in stable patients, but in an unstable or uncooperative persons, these studies are too time-consuming or require ill-advised sedation. Magnetic resonance imaging is extremely accurate for the anatomic definition of structural injury, but logistics limit its practical application in acute abdominal trauma.[3][4] The procedure was first described in 1965 by Hauser Root.[5][6]


After the application of local anesthesia, a vertical skin incision is made one third of the distance from the umbilicus to the pubic symphysis. The linea alba is divided and the peritoneum entered after it has been picked up to prevent bowel perforation. A catheter is inserted towards the pelvis and aspiration of material attempted using a syringe. If no blood is aspirated, 1 litre of warm 0.9% saline is infused and after a few (usually 5) minutes this is drained and sent for analysis.[7]

Interpretation of results

If any of the following are found then the DPL is positive and operative exploration is warranted:[8]

See also


  1. ^ Rosen 2009, p. 22
  2. ^ Rosen 2009, p. 422-4
  3. ^ Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS (2004). Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, ed 6. McGraw-Hill. pp. 1615–1616.
  4. ^ Townsed CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, et al. (2008). Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice, ed 18. Saunders. pp. 502–504.
  5. ^ Jagminas, Liudvikas (June 18, 2012). "Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage". Medscape. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  6. ^ Root H, Hauser C, McKinley C, Lafave J, Mendiola R (1965). "Diagnostic peritoneal lavage". Surgery. 57: 633–7. PMID 14295771.
  7. ^ Kim, Dennis(Narrator) (July 17, 2012). Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage (DPL). San Diego: "The Division of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care/Burns is part of the Department of Surgery, UC San Diego Health System. Event occurs at 4:00. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19.
  8. ^ Andrew B., MD Peitzman; Andrew B. Peitzman; Michael, MD Sabom; Donald M., MD Yearly; Timothy C., MD Fabian (2002). The trauma manual. Hagerstwon, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 0-7817-2641-7.