Anastomotic Leak and the Loop Ileostomy: Friend or Foe?

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Anastomotic disruption is an uncommon but morbid complication of colon and rectal surgery. This study was designed to evaluate the use of proximal diversion and surgical drainage as an alternative to anastomotic resection in the operative management of patients with anastomotic complications.


A retrospective chart review was undertaken of all patients on the colon and rectal surgery service at an academic medical center requiring operative intervention for an anastomotic complication between 1998 and 2005. Demographic data, operative management, morbidity, and mortality were collected and analyzed for each patient.


Twenty-seven patients with anastomotic leaks were included in the study. Nineteen patients were managed with proximal diversion and surgical drainage, six patients had resection of their anastomosis and creation of an end colostomy, and two patients were treated by primary reanastomosis. There was 0 percent mortality. Sixty-three percent of the patients treated with proximal diversion had restoration of intestinal continuityvs.33 percent of the patients who had the anastomosis resected. Of the 13 patients treated with proximal diversion who underwent fluoroscopic evaluation, 92 percent were normal without evidence of persistent leak or stricture.


Based on this retrospective study, proximal diversion without resection of the anastomosis seems to be a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of anastomotic complications. Sepsis is well controlled with limited mortality and there is a high rate of anastomotic salvage. Prospective studies are needed to further delineate the optimal management for this complicated patient population.

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