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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2001 Jan;83(1):40-6.

Small bowel obstruction due to postoperative adhesions: treatment patterns and associated costs in 110 hospital admissions.

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Department of Surgery, Colchester General Hospital, Colchester, Essex, UK.


The workload and costs of the emergency admissions and treatment of adhesive small bowel obstruction (ASBO) are unclear. This review details and costs the admission workload of ASBO. All admissions over a 2-year period for ASBO at two district general hospitals were identified through ICD10 diagnostic codes. Diagnostic investigations, treatment patterns, ward stay and outcome information for admissions were detailed from clinical records to develop mean cost estimates and assess the associated workload. Of the 298 admissions identified, 188 were not due to ASBO and were excluded from analysis. Of the 110 admissions detailed, 41 (37%) were treated surgically and 69 (63%) conservatively. Most admissions occurred through general practitioner referral (86.4%) to accident and emergency (90.0%). Mean (SD) length of stay was 16.3 days (11.0 days) for surgical treatment and 7.0 days (4.6 days) for conservative treatment. In-patient mortality was 9.8% for the surgical group and 7.2% for the conservative group. Costs were based on the mean values from both centres for surgical and conservative admissions and detailed according to the cost of referral and follow-up (100.98 Pounds surgical versus 102.61 Pounds conservative), hospital ward and ICU stay (3,327.48 Pounds versus 1,267.92 Pounds), theatre time (832.32 Pounds surgical only), investigations (282.73 Pounds versus 207.33 Pounds) and drug costs (133.90 Pounds versus 28.29 Pounds). Total treatment cost per admission for ASBO was 4,677.41 Pounds for surgically treated admissions and 1,606.15 Pounds for conservatively treated admissions. The impact of admissions for ASBO is considerable in terms of both costs and workload. Bed stay for these admissions represents the equivalent of almost one surgical bed per year and at least 2 days theatre time, impacting on surgical capacity and waiting lists. Adhesion prevention strategies may reduce the workload associated with ASBO. The review provides useful information for planning resource allocation.

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