The morbidity surrounding reversal of defunctioning ileostomies: a systematic review of 48 studies including 6,107 cases

Int J Colorectal Dis. 2009 Jun;24(6):711-23. doi: 10.1007/s00384-009-0660-z. Epub 2009 Feb 17.


Background and aims: Loop ileostomies are used currently in surgical practice to reduce the consequences of distal anastomotic failure following colorectal resection. It is often assumed that reversal of a loop ileostomy is a simple and safe procedure. However, many studies have demonstrated high morbidity rates following loop ileostomy closure. The aims of this systematic review were to examine all the existing evidence in the literature on morbidity and mortality following closure of loop ileostomy.

Method: A literature search of Ovid, Embase, the Cochrane database, Google Scholar and Medline using Pubmed as the search engine was used to identify studies reporting on the morbidity of loop ileostomy closure (latest at June 15th 2008), was performed. Outcomes of interest included demographics, the details regarding the original indication for operation, operative and hospital-related outcomes, post-operative bowel-related complications, and other surgical and medical complications.

Results: Forty-eight studies from 18 countries satisfied the inclusion criteria. Outcomes of a total of 6,107 patients were analysed. Overall morbidity following closure of loop ileostomy was found to be 17.3% with a mortality rate of 0.4%. 3.7% of patients required a laparotomy at the time of ileostomy closure. The most common post-operative complications included small bowel obstruction (7.2%) and wound sepsis (5.0%).

Conclusion: The consequences of anastomotic leakage following colorectal resection are severe. However, the consequences of stoma reversal are often underestimated. Surgeons should adopt a selective strategy regarding the use of defunctioning ileostomy, and counsel patients further prior to the original surgery. In this way, patients at low risk may be spared the morbidity of stoma reversal.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Ileostomy* / mortality
  • Laparotomy