Laparoscopic adhesiolysis: not for all patients, not for all surgeons, not in all centres.
ASBO is a common cause of emergency surgery and the use of laparoscopy for the treatment of these patients is still under debate and conflicting results have been published, in particular regarding the high risk of iatrogenic bowel injury. In fact, although over the last few years there has been an increasing enthusiasm in the surgical community about the advantages and potential better outcomes of laparoscopic management of adhesive small bowel obstruction (ASBO), recently published studies have introduced a significant word of caution. From 2011 in our centre, we have started to systematically approach ASBO in carefully selected patients with a step-by-step standardized laparoscopic procedure, developed and performed by a single operator experienced in emergency laparoscopy, collecting data in a prospective database. Inclusion criteria were: stable patients (without diffuse peritonitis and/or septic shock with suspicion of bowel perforation), CT scan findings consistent with a clear transition point and therefore suspected to have a single obstructing adhesive band. Patients with diffuse SB distension in the absence of a well-defined transition point and suspected to have diffuse matted adhesions (based on their surgical history and radiological findings) should be initially managed conservatively, including gastrografin challenge. Up to date, 83 patients were enrolled in the study. The rate of iatrogenic full-thickness bowel injury was 4/83 (4.8%); two of these cases were managed with simple repair and the other two required bowel resection and anastomosis. Conversion to open was performed in 3/4 of these cases, whereas in one a repair of the full-thickness injury was completed laparoscopically. All the iatrogenic injuries were detected intraoperatively and none of the reoperations that occurred in this series were due to missed bowel injuries. At 30 days follow-up, none reported incisional hernias or SSI or death. With the described accurate selection of patients, the use of such standardized step-by-step technique and in the presence of dedicated operating surgeons with advanced emergency surgery laparoscopic expertise, such procedure can be safe and feasible with multiple advantages in terms of morbidity and LOS. A careful preoperative selection of those patients who might be best candidates for laparoscopic adhesiolysis is needed. The level of laparoscopic expertise can also be highly variable, and not having advanced surgical expertise in the specific subspecialty of emergency laparoscopy, ultimately resulting in performing standardized procedures with proper careful and safe step-by-step technique, is highly recommended.
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