Adhesive Postoperative Small Bowel Obstruction: Incidence and Risk Factors of Recurrence After Surgical Treatment: A Multicenter Prospective Study

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The aim of the present study was to determine the cumulative incidence and the risk factors of recurrence in patients operated on for an adhesive postoperative small bowel obstruction (SBO).

Summary Background Data:

Postoperative intraperitoneal adhesions, or bands, resulting from any type of abdominal surgery, are the main cause of adhesive postoperative small bowel obstructions, which represent a life-long issue. Recurrences after operated adhesive postoperative SBO are a threatening potentiality for patients and a difficult problem facing any surgeon. Today the cumulative incidence and the risk factors of recurrence have been retrospectively reported but have never been prospectively evaluated in a multicenter study.


From January 1997 to January 2002, we enrolled 286 patients operated on for an adhesive postoperative SBO in a prospective multicenter trial. A systematic follow-up was carried out and ended in April 2003. Studied factors for recurrent adhesive postoperative SBO were as follows: age, gender, ASA status, number and sites of previous operations, previous operation for adhesive postoperative SBO, elapsed time from the latest operation, surgical approach, number and type of obstructive structures, site and mechanism of obstruction, final operations, and postoperative surgical and medical complications. They were analyzed using Kaplan-Meier method. A Cox regression model was used to determine the independent risk factor of recurrence.


The median follow-up was 41 months (range, 1–75 months). The cumulative incidence of overall recurrence was 15.9%, and for surgically managed recurrence 5.8%. In multivariate analysis, the risk factors for the overall recurrences were age <40 years (hazard ratio [HR], 2.97; confidence interval [CI], 1.48–5.94), adhesion or matted adhesion (HR, 3.79; CI, 1.84–7.78) and, for the surgically managed: adhesions or matted adhesions (HR, 3.64; CI, 1.12–11.84), and postoperative surgical complications (HR, 5.63; CI, 1.73–18.28).


Operated adhesive postoperative SBO is a clinical entity with a high recurrence rate and specific risk factors of recurrences. Thus, the patients operated on for adhesive postoperative SBO may be candidates for the preventive use of anti-adhesion agents, particularly when a risk factor of recurrence is present.

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