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Adhesive Small Bowel Obstruction: Early Operative versus Observational Management

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We assessed the nonoperative and operative management of adhesive small bowel obstruction (ASBO) and compared complication rates and surgical outcomes. ASBO is a common complication of abdominopelvic surgery. Although patients may respond to nonoperative management, many require surgery. We retrospectively studied patients admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital with a diagnosis of complete ASBO to determine outcomes of nonoperative management. Patients admitted with complete ASBO from 2001 to 2011 were included. Patients with no previous abdominopelvic surgery, surgery within the six weeks preceding admission and obstruction due to other identifiable causes, such as incarcerated hernia, were excluded. Complication rates and outcomes were compared between patients managed with immediate surgery and those managed initially with nonoperative strategies. Of 460 patients admitted with complete ASBO, 106 (23.0%) had surgery within 24 hours of admission. At surgery, 20 (18.9%) had ischemic bowel and 8 (7.5%) had perforations. The remaining 354 patients had a trial of nonoperative management lasting at least 24 hours. Of 354 patients managed initially without surgery, 100 (28.2%) patients were discharged without operative intervention during their index admissions. Among the patients having surgery more than 24 hours after admission, indications for surgery were generally failure to resolve, worsening clinical status, and change in imaging findings. Of those patients observed for at least 24 hours, 40 (15.7%) were found to have ischemic bowel and 5 (2.0%) had perforation at surgery. Rates of bowel resection, stoma creation and postoperative complications were similar for the immediate and delayed surgery groups. Among the delayed surgery group, 71 (28.0%) required a bowel resection and 11 (4.3%) stoma creation. Twenty one per cent had postoperative complications, most commonly ileus. There were no statistically significant differences in the outcomes between immediate and delayed groups regardless of duration of delay. Among patients observed with complete ASBO, 24.6 per cent of patients with adhesive obstruction resolved without surgery or readmission. Delaying operative management did not affect surgical findings or complication rates.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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