Study Comparing Early Laparoscopy With Active Observation in Acute Non-specific Abdominal Pain

First Laparoscopy or Active Observation in Acute Non-specific Abdominal Pain: The FLO Trial


Lead Sponsor: Mid Western Regional Hospital, Ireland

Source Mid Western Regional Hospital, Ireland
Brief Summary

Patients with acute abdominal pain comprise a significant proportion of attendances at emergency departments. These patients account for about a third of general surgical admissions in a typical day. In some cases, the diagnosis is clear from baseline investigations (for example in cases of pancreatitis). In other cases, the diagnosis remains unclear but there are signs that necessitate urgent surgery (for example in cases of appendicitis). A final group exists where no clear explanation for the pain is found and where there are insufficient clinical signs to warrant surgery. These patients are said to have "non specific abdominal pain" (NSAP) and present a management dilemma.

Traditionally such patients are managed with a strategy of active observation. Patients are examined at regular intervals and may undergo imaging. In some cases, symptoms and signs progress and surgery is needed while in other cases resolution may occur or a diagnosis may be reached non-operatively allowing focused medical treatment. Recently, two alternative strategies have emerged. Early cross-sectional imaging using CT scanning may identify conditions whilst being non-invasive. This would allow diagnosis and treatment would follow. The alternative strategy of early laparoscopy (key hole surgery) offers the possibility of concomitant therapy, but is invasive.

The study hypothesis is that in patients with acute non-specific abdominal pain active management with laparoscopy on admission will reduce hospital stay and costs when compared to traditional active observation, without increasing complications.

Detailed Description

Patients referred to the general surgical service will initially be managed as per routine practice. They will be assessed by a member of the surgical house-staff, simple baseline investigations (full blood count, serum amylase, C-reactive protein, plain radiography) will be requested. Patients will then be reviewed by a registrar or consultant. At this point, a proportion of patients will have clear indications for surgery e.g. free gas on an erect chest x-ray or peritonitis. A further subgroup will be more appropriately managed by further tests on an out-patient basis and these patients will be allowed home. Some patients will have a clear diagnosis e.g. pancreatitis. Patients in each of these groups will be managed according to the usual practice of the responsible consultant surgeon.

There is a final subgroup of patients who are the population of interest for this trial. These are patients in whom no clear diagnosis or safe decision to operate or discharge is possible. Such patients are usually admitted for a period of observation with further investigations or interventions ordered as their clinical picture evolves.

These patients will then be randomly assigned to one of two management options: an active observation arm (control) or early laparoscopy arm.

Active Observation: Patients randomised to this group will receive routine practice and will serve as the trial control group. They will be reviewed regularly by the responsible surgical team. Further investigations and interventions will be requested at the discretion of the responsible team.

Early laparoscopy: Patients randomised to this group will be listed for a diagnostic laparoscopy in the emergency theatre . The aim will be to undertake this procedure within 12 hours of randomisation. The procedure will be performed by the duty consultant surgeon or his / her nominated deputy as is usual practice. Findings at laparoscopy which require surgical intervention e.g. appendicitis will be treated as part of the same procedure as is routine clinical practice.

Follow-up: Each patient will be followed-up on a daily basis by a member of the trial team whilst an in-patient. Complications, further investigations and interventions, unplanned critical care admissions, death, length of hospital stay and final discharge diagnosis will all be recorded. Following discharge, each patient will be reviewed at four weeks and six months. SF36 questionnaires will be completed at each of these visits. In addition, the Hospital In-patient Episode database will be interrogated for further admissions to other hospitals within six months of randomisation

Overall Status Terminated
Start Date August 2012
Completion Date January 2013
Primary Completion Date January 2013
Phase Phase 4
Study Type Interventional
Primary Outcome
Measure Time Frame
Length of hospital stay the length of inpatient stay
Secondary Outcome
Measure Time Frame
Complications within 30 days within 30 days following randomisation
further radiological investigations during inpatient stay during inpatient stay
readmission to hospital with abdominal pain from randomisation to 6 months
SF36 score at 4 weeks from randomisation to4 weeks
SF36 score at 6 months 6 months following randomisation
upstaging to more severe diagnosis within 6 months from randomisation to 6 months
further blood investigations during inpatient stay during inpatient stay
further urine tests during inpatient stay during inpatient stay
Enrollment 17

Intervention Type: Procedure

Intervention Name: early laparoscopy

Description: Laparoscopy under performed by the surgeon on duty or his/her deputy. The aim is to achieve this within 12 hours of randomisation. This will be performed under general anaesthetic and involve the necessary drugs. The procedure will require laparoscopy instruments. There will be a umbilical port which will be 10mm in size and one 5mm port below this. If pathology is found, a further port will be needed to perform treatment.

Arm Group Label: early laparoscopy

Intervention Type: Procedure

Intervention Name: General anaesthesia

Arm Group Label: early laparoscopy

Intervention Type: Device

Intervention Name: Laparoscopic instruments

Arm Group Label: early laparoscopy



Inclusion Criteria:

- age greater than 18

- admission with abdominal pain for up to one week prior to admission deemed to be non-specific pain by senior surgical team member

- patient willing to give full informed consent for participation

Exclusion Criteria:

- patients less than 18 years of age

- pain of greater than 7 days duration

- admission with abdominal pain in previous 6 months

- history of inflammatory bowel disease

- previous history of appendicectomy

- previous surgery rendering laparoscopy unsafe eg. multiple laparotomies

- history of intra-abdominal transplant including retroperitoneal renal allografting

- clinical picture necessitating immediate surgical procedure

- cases involving trauma

- patients who are unable or unwilling to give full informed consent

Gender: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Healthy Volunteers: No

Overall Official
Facility: University Hospital Limerick
Location Countries


Verification Date

March 2013

Responsible Party

Type: Principal Investigator

Investigator Affiliation: Mid Western Regional Hospital, Ireland

Investigator Full Name: Professor Stewart Walsh

Investigator Title: Professor

Has Expanded Access No
Condition Browse
Number Of Arms 2
Arm Group

Label: early laparoscopy

Type: Active Comparator

Description: early laparoscopy, aiming to achieve this within 12 hours

Label: active observation

Type: Placebo Comparator

Description: standard management - the "wait and see" approach with serial examinations and investigations as deemed necessary

Acronym FLO
Study Design Info

Allocation: Randomized

Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment

Primary Purpose: Treatment

Masking: None (Open Label)