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Eur J Surg. 1997 Oct;163(10):767-72.

Does the index operation influence the course and outcome of adhesive intestinal obstruction?

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Department of Surgery, Bnai Zion Medical Center, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.



To ascertain the incidence of obstruction after various operations and find out if the index operation influenced the course and outcome of adhesive small bowel obstruction.


Retrospective study.


Teaching hospital, Israel.


190 of 248 patients who presented with small bowel obstruction between January 1980 and December 1994.


All patients were treated conservatively and operated on only if they did not improve or deteriorated.


Incidence of obstruction depending on site of index operation, and response to treatment.


46 Patients (24%) had undergone upper abdominal operations, 26 (14%) small bowel resection, 47 (25%) appendicectomy, 27 (14%) gynaecological operations, and 44 (23%) colonic resections. The annual incidence of obstructive complications among the 190 patients in the groups studied was highest after appendicectomy (3.1/year) and colonic resections (2.9/year) and lowest after operations on the gallbladder and pancreas (1.1/year). Postoperative adhesive obstruction presented earlier after operations on the small bowel (median 1 year, range 5.4-20) and colon (median 1 year, range 2.2-40) than after the other operations. 60 (32%) of patients with acute small bowel obstruction had a history of abdominal malignancy, and obstruction was more likely to be complete after small bowel resection (20/26, 77%) compared with 39/74 (53%) after appendicectomy or gynaecological surgery, 17/46 (37%) after upper abdominal surgery, and 15/44 (34%) after colonic resection. Patients who developed obstruction after colonic resection had the longest period of conservative treatment (median 60 hours, range 24-216) and had the highest morbidity (8/44, 18%) although only 2 required bowel resection. Two patients died, both after obstruction following upper abdominal operations.


Patients who present with obstruction after small bowel resection are extremely likely to be completely obstructed. Perhaps the morbidity associated with obstruction after colonic resection could be reduced if patients were operated on earlier.

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