Colon and rectal surgery without mechanical bowel preparation: a randomized prospective trial

Ann Surg. 2003 Mar;237(3):363-7. doi: 10.1097/01.SLA.0000055222.90581.59.


Objective: To assess whether elective colon and rectal surgery can be safely performed without preoperative mechanical bowel preparation.

Summary background data: Mechanical bowel preparation is routinely done before colon and rectal surgery, aimed at reducing the risk of postoperative infectious complications. However, in cases of penetrating colon trauma, primary colonic anastomosis has proven to be safe even though the bowel is not prepared.

Methods: Patients undergoing elective colon and rectal resections with primary anastomosis were prospectively randomized into two groups. Group A had mechanical bowel preparation with polyethylene glycol before surgery, and group B had their surgery without preoperative mechanical bowel preparation. Patients were followed up for 30 days for wound, anastomotic, and intra-abdominal infectious complications.

Results: Three hundred eighty patients were included in the study, 187 in group A and 193 in group B. Demographic characteristics, indications for surgery, and type of surgical procedure did not significantly differ between the two groups. Colo-colonic or colorectal anastomosis was performed in 63% of the patients in group A and 66% in group B. There was no difference in the rate of surgical infectious complications between the two groups. The overall infectious complications rate was 10.2% in group A and 8.8% in group B. Wound infection, anastomotic leak, and intra-abdominal abscess occurred in 6.4%, 3.7%, and 1.1% versus 5.7%, 2.1%, and 1%, respectively.

Conclusions: These results suggest that elective colon and rectal surgery may be safely performed without mechanical preparation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Abscess / etiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anastomosis, Surgical
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis
  • Cathartics / administration & dosage*
  • Colon / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene Glycols / administration & dosage*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectum / surgery*
  • Surgical Wound Infection


  • Cathartics
  • Polyethylene Glycols