Consequences and complications of peritoneal adhesions

Colorectal Dis. 2007 Oct;9 Suppl 2:25-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1318.2007.01358.x.

Abstract

Consequences and complications of postsurgical intra-abdominal adhesion formation not including small bowel obstruction and secondary infertility are substantial but are under-exposed in the literature. Inadvertent enterotomy during reopening of the abdomen or subsequent adhesion dissection is a feared complication of surgery after previous laparotomy. The incidence can be as high as 20% in open surgery and between 1% and 100% in laparoscopy depending on the underlying disease. Delayed postoperative detection of enterotomy is a particular feature of laparoscopy associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Adhesions to the ventral abdominal wall are responsible for the majority of trocar injuries. Both trocar injuries and inadvertent enterotomies result in conversion from laparoscopy to laparotomy in almost 100% of cases. There is a paucity of data on other organ injury, such as liver laceration or bladder perforation. Dissecting adhesions before executing the planned operation takes on average 20 min, being one-fifth of the total operating time in patients having had previous open colorectal surgery. There is some evidence that postoperative morbidity and mortality of patients who need adhesiolysis is higher than that of patients with a virgin abdomen. The necessity to dissect adhesions is associated with increased hospital stay. Postsurgical adhesions are considered a main reason for conversion from laparoscopy to laparotomy in many types of procedures including laparoscopic colonic resection. Adhesion formation is part of the innate peritoneal defence mechanism in peritonitis. Abscess formation and bleeding, organ injury and fistula formation at 'on demand' relaparotomies are well-known complications after surgery for intra-abdominal sepsis associated with fibrinous adhesions. The clinical magnitude hereof is poorly researched. Postsurgical adhesions may cause pain as evidenced by pain mapping clinical experiments. Filmy adhesions between movable organs and the peritoneum appear to be worse in terms of generating pain. The high caseload of gynaecological and some colorectal practices suggest an enormous impact of adhesion-related chronic abdominal and pelvic pain on patient's wellbeing and socio-economic costs. The significant risk of inadvertent enterotomy, conversion to laparotomy and trocar injury, and the associated postoperative morbidity and mortality and increased length of hospital stay warrant routine informed consent of adhesiolysis related complications in patients scheduled for abdominal or pelvic reoperation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infertility / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Laparoscopy
  • Peritoneum / surgery*
  • Peritonitis / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications* / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications* / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • Tissue Adhesions / complications*
  • Tissue Adhesions / physiopathology
  • Tissue Adhesions / surgery