Intestinal obstruction from adhesions—how big is the problem?

D Menzies, H Ellis
Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England 1990, 72 (1): 60-3
Apart from one post-mortem study, the incidence of adhesions following laparotomy has not been well documented. 1. In a prospective analysis of 210 patients undergoing a laparotomy, who had previously had one or more abdominal operations, we found that 93% had intra-abdominal adhesions that were a result of their previous surgery. This compared with 115 first-time laparotomies in which 10.4% had adhesions. 2. Over a 25-year period, 261 of 28 297 adult general surgical admissions were for intestinal obstruction from adhesions (0.9%). Of 4502 laparotomies, 148 were for adhesive obstruction (3.3%). 3. Over a 13-year period all laparotomies were followed up for an average of 14.5 months (range 0-91 months). From these 2708 laparotomies, 26 developed intestinal obstruction due to postoperative adhesions within 1 year of surgery (1%). Fourteen did so within 1 month of surgery (0.5%). 4. The majority of the operations producing intestinal obstruction were lower abdominal, principally involving the colon. The volume of general surgical work from adhesions is large and the incidence of early intestinal obstruction is high.

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