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Ann Ital Chir. 2009 Nov-Dec;80(6):417-21.

[Intestinal occlusion and abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS)].

[Article in Italian]

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  • 1Chirurgia Generale e d'Urgenza, Dipartimento di Specialit√† Chirurgische POC, "Sapienza" Universit√† di Roma I Facolt√† di Medicina e Chirurgia, Polo Pontino.


Intestinal occlusion is defined as an independent predictive factor of intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH) which represents an independent predictor of mortality. Baggot in 1951 classified patients operated with intestinal occlusion as being at risk for IAH ("abdominal blow-out"), recommending them for open abdomen surgery proposed by Ogilvie. Abdominal surgery provokes IAH in 44.7% of cases with mortality which, in emergency, triples with respect to elective surgery (21.9% vs 6.8%). In particular, IAH is present in 61.2% of ileus and bowel distension and is responsible for 52% of mortality (54.8% in cases with intra-abdominal infection). These patients present with an increasing intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) which, over 20-25 mmHg, triggers an Abdominal Compartment Syndrome (ACS) with altered functions in some organs arriving at Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS). The intestine normally covers 58% of abdominal volume but when there is ileus distension, intestinal pneumatosis develops (third space) which can occupy up to 90% of the entire cavity. At this moment, Gastro Intestinal Failure (GIF) can appear, which is a specific independent risk factor of mortality, motor of "Organ Failure". The pathophysiological evolution has many factors in 45% of cases: intestinal pneumatosis is associated with mucosal and serous edema, capillary leakage with an increase in extra-cellular volume and peritoneal fluid collections (fourth space). The successive loss of the mucous barrier permits a bacterial translocation which includes bacteria, toxins, pro-inflammatory factors and oxygen free radicals facilitating the passage from an intra-abdominal to inter-systemic vicious cyrcle. IAH provokes the raising of the diaphragm, and vascular and visceral compressions which induce hypertension in the various spaces with compartmental characteristics. These trigger hypertension in the renal, hepatic, pelvic, thoracic, cardiac, intracranial, orbital and lower extremity areas, giving a critical clinical condition of Polycompartment Syndrome. The monitoring of Abdominal Perfusion Pressure (APP) is more correct than the measurement of IAP because it reveals hydrodynamic alterations in the abdominal compartment. The APP (MAP-IAP) depends on arterial flow, venous outflow and capacity of the abdominal compartments response to increased internal volumes. The medical therapy used to decrease IAH and to contrast ACS is intestinal decompression with gastric and rectal tube; colonic endoscopic detention; correction of electrolytic abnormalities and prokinetic agents. Surgery, besides being decompressive and resolutive, must prevent a recurrence of ACS through the "tension-free closure" procedure.

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