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Ann Surg. Mar 1996; 223(3): 242–248.
PMCID: PMC1235111

Foreign material in postoperative adhesions.


OBJECTIVE: The authors determined the prevalence of foreign body granulomas in intra-abdominal adhesions in patients with a history of abdominal surgery. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In a cross-sectional, multicenter, multinational study, adult patients with a history of one or more previous abdominal operations and scheduled for laparotomy between 1991 and 1993 were examined during surgery. Patients in whom adhesions were present were selected for study. Quantity, distribution, and quality of adhesions were scored, and adhesion samples were taken for histologic examination. RESULTS: In 448 studied patients, the adhesions were most frequently attached to the omentum (68%) and the small bowel (67%). The amount of adhesions was significantly smaller in patients with a history of only one minor operation or one major operation, compared with those with multiple laparotomies (p < 0.001). Significantly more adhesions were found in patients with a history of adhesions at previous laparotomy (p < 0.001), with presence of abdominal abscess, hematoma, and intestinal leakage as complications after former surgery (p = 0.01, p = 0.002, and p < 0.001, respectively), and with a history of an unoperated inflammatory process (p = 0.04). Granulomas were found in 26% of all patients. Suture granulomas were found in 25% of the patients. Starch granulomas were present in 5% of the operated patients whose surgeons wore starch-containing gloves. When suture granulomas were present, the median interval between the present and the most recent previous laparotomy was 13 months. When suture granulomas were absent, this interval was significantly longer--i.e., 30 months (p = 0.002). The percentage of patients with suture granulomas decreased gradually from 37% if the previous laparotomy had occurred up to 6 months before the present operation, to 18% if the previous laparotomy had occurred more than 2 years ago (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The number of adhesions found at laparotomy was significantly larger in patients with a history of multiple laparotomies, unoperated intra-abdominal inflammatory disease, and previous postoperative intra-abdominal complications, and when adhesions were already present at previous laparotomy. In recent adhesions, suture granulomas occurred in a large percentage. This suggests that the intra-abdominal presence of foreign material is an important cause of adhesion formation. Therefore intra-abdominal contamination with foreign material should be minimized.

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Selected References

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