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Hepatogastroenterology. 1999 Mar-Apr;46(26):808-12.

Retained foreign bodies following intra-abdominal surgery.

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Clinica de Cirugia e Hiper-Alimentacion, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.



A retained foreign body in the abdominal cavity following surgery is a continuing problem. Despite precautions, the incidence is grossly underestimated. The purpose of this study is to report the result of surgical treatment on 24 consecutive cases treated by the authors during a 10-year period.


All consecutive patients with a confirmed diagnosis of foreign body after abdominal surgery were studied. Data collected included the patients' age and sex, the initial diagnosis and primary surgical treatment, period of time between the probable causative operation and the definitive treatment, nature of the foreign body, clinical presentation, predisposing factors, and diagnosis and management; morbidity and mortality are presented as well as guidelines for prevention.


All patients were symptomatic. Eight patients presented as intraabdominal sepsis (4 with intestinal obstruction, 4 with entero- or colo-cutaneous fistula), non-specified abdominal pain in 3, persistent sinus and granuloma in 2, abdominal palpable mass in another 2 cases, and 1 patient with vaginal discharge. The diagnosis was established pre-operatively in 15 cases by means of plain abdominal radiographs, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan. Morbidity was observed in 50% and the rate of surgical reinterventions because of fistulas or residual sepsis in 18%. The mortality was almost 10%.


The clinical manifestations ranged from mild abdominal pain, palpable mass, persistent drainage and granuloma to intestinal obstruction secondary to adhesions or occlusion of the intestinal lumen because of migration of the foreign body and intraabdominal sepsis. Despite this being a rare situation, when it happens it presents as a very serious problem to patients with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Prevention remains the key to the problem.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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