Purpose: Translocation of enteric organisms has been implicated as a possible source of sepsis in susceptible patients. Animals studies have suggested that intestinal obstruction promotes bacterial translocation from the gut lumen. The aim of this study was to study the prevalence of bacterial translocation in patients with and without intestinal obstruction.
Methods: Serosal scrapings, mesenteric lymph nodes, and peripheral blood cultures were obtained from 254 patients. Scrapings and nodes were homogenized and incubated aerobically and anaerobically. Full-thickness biopsies underwent villous height analysis. The clinical course was followed for at least six weeks.
Results: Bacterial translocation to mesenteric nodes occurred more frequently in patients with large bowel obstruction than in patients without obstruction (14 of 36 patients vs. 16 of 218 patients; P < 0.001). Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria were found to translocate. The more distal the obstruction, the more likely anaerobic bacteria were to be identified. Translocation of bacteria predisposed to postoperative septic complications (P < 0.05). Villous height was not related to bacterial translocation.
Conclusions: Gut translocation of bacteria is more common in patients with intestinal obstruction, and its association with septic complications appears to be of clinical significance.