Liquid and fluid agents for preventing adhesions after surgery for subfertility

A Watson, P Vandekerckhove, R Lilford
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000, (3): CD001298

BACKGROUND: Pelvic surgery is associated with high rates of both de novo adhesion formation and adhesion reformation. Although the role of pelvic and/or tubal surgery in the management of infertility is more limited since the development of in-vitro fertilisation such surgery remains indicated for a number of selected patients. Other forms of pelvic surgery will remain prevalent in women of reproductive age (e.g. endometriosis surgery, ovarian cystectomy, myomectomy). Since subsequent fertility is reduced with increasing severity of periadnexal adhesions, pelvic adhesions will remain a clinical problem in infertility patients. Adjuvant therapy has been promoted for many years to prevent adhesion formation. Numerous substances have been used experimentally in animal models, many have been advocated for use during human surgery, and some are widely used in clinical practice. Steroids and antihistamines are given in the belief that they will promote fibrinolysis during healing without preventing healing.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether pharmacological and liquid agents used as adjuvants during pelvic surgery in infertility patients lead to a reduction in the incidence or severity of postoperative adhesion (re-)formation, and/or an improvement in subsequent pregnancy rates.

SEARCH STRATEGY: The specialised database of the Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group was searched.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials investigating the use of pharmacological and liquid agents to prevent adhesion formation after pelvic surgery for infertility.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted independently by the first 2 authors. Differences of opinion were registered and resolved by consensus with the senior author (RJL). Two by two tables were generated for each trial for the dichotomous outcome of pregnancy and the effects on pregnancy rate of each study is expressed as an odds ratio with 95% confidence intervals.

MAIN RESULTS: None of the pharmacological or liquid agents investigated in a randomised controlled fashion was shown to improve postoperative pregnancy rates. There was some evidence that steroids reduced the incidence and severity of postoperative adhesion formation. Dextran appeared to neither reduce the incidence or severity of adhesions.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: The routine use of pharmacological agents to prevent post-operative adhesions after infertility surgery cannot be recommended on the basis of the available evidence derived from RCTs. In connection with adhesion prevention, the evidence with regard to steroids is far from perfect but tentatively suggests that they may be beneficial. Further randomised studies should be conducted to investigate this further.

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