Background: Laparoscopic adhesiolysis for chronic abdominal pain is controversial and is not evidence based. We aimed to test our hypothesis that laparoscopic adhesiolysis leads to substantial pain relief and improvement in quality of life in patients with adhesions and chronic abdominal pain.
Methods: Patients had diagnostic laparoscopy for chronic abdominal pain attributed to adhesions; other causes for their pain had been excluded. If adhesions were confirmed during diagnostic laparoscopy, patients were randomly assigned either to laparoscopic adhesiolysis or no treatment. Treatment allocation was concealed from patients, and assessors were unaware of patients' treatment and outcome. Pain was assessed for 1 year by visual analogue score (VAS) score (scale 0-100), pain change score, use of analgesics, and quality of life score. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: Of 116 patients enrolled for diagnostic laparoscopy, 100 were randomly allocated either laparoscopic adhesiolysis (52) or no treatment (48). Both groups reported substantial pain relief and a significantly improved quality of life, but there was no difference between the groups (mean change from baseline of VAS score at 12 months: difference 3 points, p=0.53; 95% CI -7 to 13).
Interpretation: Although laparoscopic adhesiolysis relieves chronic abdominal pain, it is not more beneficial than diagnostic laparoscopy alone. Therefore, laparoscopic adhesiolysis cannot be recommended as a treatment for adhesions in patients with chronic abdominal pain.