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Gastrointestinal disorders of the critically ill. Systemic consequences of ileus.

Ileus refers to the partial or complete blockage of the small and/or large intestine either by functional (adynamic or paralytic ileus) or mechanical bowel obstruction. The diffuse gastrointestinal dysmotility during functional and mechanical ileus may result in intestinal dilatation, increased luminal pressure and gut wall ischaemia which may lead to increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). Any type of ileus may promote abdominal fluid sequestration with severe systemic hypovolaemia, intestinal bacterial overgrowth with the evolution of bacterial translocation and systemic invasive infections and inflammation of the intestinal wall with concomitant release of cytokines and the development of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome. The most serious complications of ileus are mediated by an increase in IAP. Intra-abdominal hypertension has been found in up to 20% of critically ill patients and may lead to a broad pattern of systemic consequences with multiple organ dysfunction, including cardiovascular, hepatic, pulmonary, renal and neurological function. The abdominal compartment syndrome is an emergency condition which is defined as elevation of IAP above 20 to 25 mmHg and the presence of systemic consequences. Therapeutic considerations include the maintenance of adequate hydration status, avoidance of drugs known to impair intestinal perfusion, stimulation of gastric and intestinal motility and various nutritional aspects. Colonic tube placement after decompressive colonoscopy may be effective in reducing intestinal dilatation. In the abdominal compartment syndrome the 'open abdominal approach' with decompressive laparotomy by opening the peritoneal cavity and temporary abdominal closure is the therapy of choice.

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