Colonic Ileus Complicating Laminectomy

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Colonic ileus is an unusual form of adynamic ileus that often mimics true intestinal obstruction and that, if not recognized and adequately treated, may be fatal. We have encountered three patients in whom this syndrome followed apparently uncomplicated laminectomy for herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Two of our three patients required abdominal exploration for diagnosis and treatment of the complication. At operation, a large distended colon without volvulus or tumor was found. Cecostomy was performed in both patients. The third patient was treated conservatively. All three patients recovered without sequelae. The pathogenesis of the illness is unknown, but the most widely held view is that ileus results from increased sympathetic activity that inhibits the bowel. Conservative management consisting of correction of any fluid or electrolyte abnormalities, continuous gastric suction via nasogastric tube, and placement of a rectal tube may relieve the symptoms. Patients should, however, be followed carefully and, if distention of the cecum exceeds 12 cm, a decompressive operation is indicated.

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