Sigmoid volvulus in Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers

E M Grossmann, W E Longo, M D Stratton, K S Virgo, F E Johnson
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 2000, 43 (3): 414-8

PURPOSE: Sigmoid volvulus is the third leading cause of large-bowel obstruction. The optimal management strategy remains controversial. This study was undertaken to evaluate the care of patients with sigmoid volvulus recently treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

METHODS: All patients with the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, Third Edition code for colonic volvulus during the period 1991 to 1995 were identified in the computerized national Department of Veterans Affairs database. Data on patient demographics, clinical course, and outcomes were analyzed.

RESULTS: Two hundred twenty-eight patients had volvulus of the sigmoid colon and sufficient clinical data for evaluation. The mean age was 70; all were males. Endoscopic decompression was attempted in 189 of 228 (83 percent) patients and was successful in 154 of 189 (81 percent). Management included celiotomy in 178 of 228 (78 percent) patients. There were no intraoperative deaths. Twenty-five of 178 (14 percent) patients died within 30 days of surgery. The mortality rate was 24 percent for emergency operations (19/79), and 6 percent for elective procedures (6/99). Mortality was correlated with emergent surgery (P < 0.01) and necrotic colon (P < 0.05). Among those 50 patients managed by decompression alone, six (12 percent) died during the index admission. Ten of the remaining 44 (23 percent) patients eventually developed recurrent volvulus requiring further treatment, and 2 of 10 (20 percent) patients died.

CONCLUSIONS: In this cohort sigmoid volvulus often presents as a surgical emergency. Initial endoscopic decompression resolves the acute obstruction in the majority of cases. Surgical intervention carries a substantial risk of mortality, particularly in the setting of emergent surgery or in the presence of necrotic colon.

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