The troubled savings and loan industry lost nearly $3.8 billion in the first quarter of 1988, largely through 20 institutions, most of them in Texas, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board reported today.

The Bank Board put the loss at $3.78 billion, a shade lower than the revised record $3.81 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 1987. The board previously reported the fourth quarter loss at $3.2 billion.The percentage of thrifts that showed a profit in the first quarter increased to 69 percent from 65 percent from the fourth quarter of 1987, but increased losses in the 10 percent of all savings institutions that are insolvent pulled the industry loss down to $3.78 billion, the bank board said.

The 20 most unprofitable thrifts, most of them in Texas, lost $3 billion during the first quarter, the report said.

Of 3,118 savings and loan institutions nationwide, which held $1.3 trillion in assets, 2,774 were solvent and held 90 percent of the total assets. The 344 insolvent institutions posted first-quarter losses of $4.4 billion, up from $3.7 billion in losses in the fourth quarter of 1987, the board said.

The comptroller of the currency, in a study of banking failures released Monday, said the primary cause of such problems is mismanagement. The study contradicts many bankers and savings industry executives who primarily blame the economy for the failures.