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Acute colonic pseudo-obstruction following major orthopaedic surgery.

Colorectal Disease 2005 September
OBJECTIVE: Acute colonic pseudo-obstruction (ACPO) has been linked with multiple aetiologies including orthopaedic surgery. However, the actual incidence and natural progression are not well described in these patients. We aim to assess the incidence of ACPO in patients undergoing elective orthopaedic procedures, and to examine for potential exacerbating factors.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: All patients from the orthopaedic directorate that had abdominal imaging in the five years from August 1998 to August 2003 were identified from radiology archives. A manual search of the patients' notes was conducted with data recorded on the patients' history, operative details and their postoperative course including their haematological and biochemical results. Details regarding their ACPO were documented with respect to the onset of symptoms, how the diagnosis was achieved, what treatment was instigated and how the condition progressed. A control group of age and sex matched patients was included for comparison.

RESULTS: Thirty-five patients with ACPO were identified. The operations included 21 hip replacements, 10 knee replacements and 4 spinal operations. The incidence of ACPO was 1.3%, 0.65% and 1.19%, respectively. In comparison to control patients, patients with ACPO had a lower postoperative serum sodium (P = 0.001), a higher serum urea (P = 0.021) and remained in hospital longer (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: ACPO is uncommon in orthopaedic patients, however, its occurrence results in prolonged hospital stay. Attention to patients' postoperative fluid balance and biochemical status may reduce the incidence.

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