Adhesion-related readmissions after open and laparoscopic surgery: a retrospective cohort study (SCAR update)

Lancet. 2020 Jan 4;395(10217):33-41. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32636-4.


Background: Adhesions are the most common driver of long-term morbidity after abdominal surgery. Although laparoscopy can reduce adhesion formation, the effect of minimally invasive surgery on long-term adhesion-related morbidity remains unknown. We aimed to assess the impact of laparoscopy on adhesion-related readmissions in a population-based cohort.

Methods: We did a retrospective cohort study of patients of any age who had abdominal or pelvic surgery done using laparoscopic or open approaches between June 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011, using validated population data from the Scottish National Health Service. All patients who had surgery were followed up until Dec 31, 2017. The primary outcome measure was the incidence of hospital readmissions directly related to adhesions in the laparoscopic and open surgery cohorts at 5 years. Readmissions were categorised as directly related to adhesions, possibly related to adhesions, and readmissions for an operation that was potentially complicated by adhesions. We did subgroup analyses of readmissions by anatomical site of surgery and used Kaplan-Meier analyses to assess differences in survival across subgroups. We used multivariable Cox-regression analysis to determine whether surgical approach was an independent and significant risk factor for adhesion-related readmissions.

Findings: Between June 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011, 72 270 patients had an index abdominal or pelvic surgery, of whom 21 519 (29·8%) had laparoscopic index surgery and 50 751 (70·2%) had open surgery. Of the 72 270 patients who had surgery, 2527 patients (3·5%) were readmitted within 5 years of surgery for disorders directly related to adhesions, 12 687 (17·6%) for disorders possibly related to adhesions, and 9436 (13·1%) for operations potentially complicated by adhesions. Of the 21 519 patients who had laparoscopic surgery, 359 (1·7% [95% CI 1·5-1·9]) were readmitted for disorders directly related to adhesions compared with 2168 (4·3% [4·1-4·5]) of 50 751 patients in the open surgery cohort (p<0·0001). 3443 (16·0% [15·6-16·4]) of 21 519 patients in the laparoscopic surgery cohort were readmitted for disorders possibly related to adhesions compared with 9244 (18·2% [17·8-18·6]) of 50 751 patients in the open surgery cohort (p<0·005). In multivariate analyses, laparoscopy reduced the risk of directly related readmissions by 32% (hazard ratio [HR] 0·68, 95% CI 0·60-0·77), and of possibly related readmissions by 11% (HR 0·89, 0·85-0·94) compared with open surgery. Procedure type, malignancy, sex, and age were also independently associated with risk of adhesion-related readmissions.

Interpretation: Laparoscopic surgery reduces the incidence of adhesion-related readmissions. However, the overall burden of readmissions associated with adhesions remains high. With further increases in the use of laparoscopic surgery expected in the future, the effect at the population level might become larger. Further steps remain necessary to reduce the incidence of adhesion-related postsurgical complications.

Funding: Dutch Adhesion Group and Nordic Pharma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Laparoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pelvis / surgery
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Reoperation / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects*
  • Tissue Adhesions / etiology*
  • Tissue Adhesions / surgery
  • Young Adult