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Is non-operative management still justified in the treatment of adhesive small bowel obstruction in children?

BACKGROUND: Adhesive small bowel obstruction (ASBO) is a feared complication after abdominal operations in both children and adults. The optimal management of ASBO in the pediatric population is debated. The aim of the present study was to examine the safety and effectiveness of non-operative management in ASBO.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of 33 patients who were admitted for ASBO over a 5-year period was carried out. Follow-up data were available for 29 patients. Demographic, clinical, and operative details and outcomes were collected for these patients. Data analysis was done with SPSS version 15.0. P ≤ 0.05 was regarded as significant.

RESULTS: Out of 618 abdominal surgeries within the 5-year period, 34 admissions were recorded from 29 patients at the follow-up period of 1-28 months. There were 19 boys (65.5%). The median age of patients was 4.5 years. Typhoid intestinal perforation (n = 7), intussusception (n = 6), intestinal malrotation (n = 5), and appendicitis (n = 4) were the major indications for a prior abdominal surgery leading to ASBO. Twenty-five patients (73.5%) developed SBO due to adhesions within the first year of the primary procedure. Of the 34 patients admitted with ASBO, 18 (53%) underwent operative intervention and 16 (47%) were successfully managed non-operatively. There were no differences in sex (P = 0.24), initial procedure (P = 0.12), age, duration of symptoms, and time to re-admission between the patients who responded to non-operative management and those who underwent operative intervention. However, the length of hospital stay was significantly shorter in the non-operative group (P < 0.0001). Five (14.7%) patients had small bowel resection. A 43-day-old child who initially underwent Ladd's procedure died within 15 h of re-admission while being prepared for surgery, accounting for the only mortality (3.4%).

CONCLUSION: Non-operative management is still a safe and preferred approach in selected patients with ASBO. However, 53% eventually required surgery.

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