Objective: To determine the incidence of bowel injury in operations requiring adhesiolysis and to assess the impact of adhesiolysis on the incidence of surgical complications, postoperative morbidity, and costs.
Background: Morbidity of adhesiolysis during abdominal surgery seems an important health care problem, but the direct impact of adhesiolysis on inadvertent organ damage, morbidity, and costs is unknown.
Methods: In a prospective cohort study, detailed data on adhesiolysis were gathered by direct observation during elective abdominal surgery. Comparison was made between surgical procedures with and without adhesiolysis on the incidence of inadvertent bowel defects. Secondary outcomes were the effect of adhesiolysis and bowel injury on surgical complications, other morbidity, and costs.
Results: A total of 755 (out of 844) surgeries in 715 patients were included. Adhesiolysis was required in 475 (62.9%) of operations. Median adhesiolysis time was 20 minutes (range: 1–177). Fifty patients (10.5%) undergoing adhesiolysis inadvertently incurred bowel defect, compared with 0 (0%) without adhesiolysis (P < 0.001). In univariate and multivariate analyses, adhesiolysis was associated with an increase of sepsis incidence [odds ratio (OR): 5.12; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06–24.71], intra-abdominal complications (OR: 3.46; 95% CI: 1.49–8.05) and wound infection (OR: 2.45; 95% CI: 1.01–5.94), longer hospital stay (2.06 ± 1.06 days), and higher hospital costs [$18,579 (15,204–21,954) vs $14,063 (12,471–15,655)]. Mortality after adhesiolysis complicated by a bowel defect was 4 out of 50 (8%), compared with 7 out of 425 (1.6%) after uncomplicated adhesiolysis (OR: 5.19; 95% CI: 1.47–18.41).
Conclusions: Adhesiolysis and inadvertent bowel injury have a large negative effect on the convalescence after abdominal surgery. The awareness of adhesion-related morbidity during reoperation and the prevention of postsurgical adhesion deserve priority in research and clinical practice.