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Elective adhesiolysis for chronic abdominal pain reduces long-term risk of adhesive small bowel obstruction.

BACKGROUND: Selected patients with adhesion-related chronic abdominal pain can be treated effectively by adhesiolysis with the application of adhesion barriers. These patients might also have an increased risk to develop adhesive small bowel obstruction (ASBO). It is unknown how frequently these patients develop ASBO, and how elective adhesiolysis for pain impacts the risk of ASBO.

METHODS: Patients with adhesion-related chronic pain were included in this cohort study with long-term follow-up. The diagnosis of adhesions was confirmed using CineMRI. The decision for operative treatment of adhesions was made by shared agreement based on the correlation of complaints with CineMRI findings. The primary outcome was the 5-years incidence of readmission for ASBO. Incidence was compared between patients with elective adhesiolysis and those treated non-operatively and between patients with and without previous ASBO. Univariable and multivariable Cox regression analysis was performed to identify predictive factors for ASBO. Secondary outcomes included reoperation for ASBO and self-reported pain and other abdominal symptoms.

RESULTS: A total of 122 patients were included, 69 patients underwent elective adhesiolysis. Thirty patients in both groups had previous episodes of ASBO in history. During 5-year follow-up, the readmission rate for ASBO was 6.5% after elective adhesiolysis compared to 26.9% after non-operative treatment (p = 0.012). These percentages were 13.3% compared to 40% in the subgroup of patients with previous episodes of ASBO (p = 0.039). In multivariable analysis, elective adhesiolysis was associated with a decreased risk of readmission for ASBO with an odds ratio of 0.21 (95% CI 0.07-0.65), the risk was increased in patients with previous episodes with a odds ratio of 19.2 (95% CI 2.5-144.4). There was no difference between the groups in the prevalence of self-reported abdominal pain. However, in surgically treated patients the impact of pain on daily activities was lower, and the incidence of other symptoms was lower.

CONCLUSION: More than one in four patients with chronic adhesion-related pain develop episodes of ASBO when treated non-operatively. Elective adhesiolysis reduces the incidence of ASBO in patients with chronic adhesion-related symptoms, both in patients with and without previous episodes of ASBO in history. Trial registration The study was registered at under NCT01236625.

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