Surgery for adhesive small-bowel obstruction linked with lower risk of recurrence


Background: Guidelines recommend nonoperative monitoring for aSBO; however, long-term association of operative versus nonoperative management and aSBO recurrence is poorly understood.

Study design: Longitudinal, retrospective cohort.

Setting: Hospitals in Ontario.

Synopsis: Administrative data for 2005-2014 was used to identify 27,904 adults hospitalized for an initial episode of aSBO who did not have known inflammatory bowel disease, history of radiotherapy, malignancy, ileus, impaction, or anatomical obstruction. Approximately 22% of patients were managed surgically during the index admission. Patients were followed for a median of 3.6 years. Overall, 19.6% of patients experienced at least one admission for recurrence of aSBO during the study period. With each recurrence, the probability of subsequent recurrence increased, the time between episodes decreased, and the probability of being treated surgically decreased.

Patients were then matched into operative (n = 6,160) and nonoperative (n = 6,160) cohorts based on a propensity score which incorporated comorbidity burden, age, gender, and socioeconomic status. Patients who underwent operative management during their index admission for aSBO had a lower overall risk of recurrence compared to patients managed nonoperatively (13.0% vs. 21.3%; P less than .001). Operative intervention was associated with lower hazards of recurrence even when accounting for death. Additionally, surgical intervention after any episode was associated with a significantly lower risk of recurrence, compared with nonoperative management.

Bottom line: Contrary to surgical dogma, surgical intervention is associated with reduced risk of recurrent aSBO in patients without complicating factors. Hospitalists should consider recurrence risk when managing these patients nonoperatively.

Citation: Behman R et al. Association of surgical intervention for adhesive small-bowel obstruction with the risk of recurrence. JAMA Surg. 2019 May 1;154(5):413-20.

Dr. Liu is a hospitalist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.

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