The Burden of Postoperative Abdominal Adhesions


A systematic review aimed to identify the burden of the most significant complications of postoperative abdominopelvic adhesions. Of the nearly 200 studies included in the review, the following categories were included: small bowel obstruction (n=125), difficulties during subsequent operation (n=62), infertility (n=11), and chronic pain (n=5). The incidence of postoperative small bowel obstruction, assessed among nearly 108,000 patients in 92 studies, was 9% overall. The incidence of adhesive small bowel obstruction was 2.4% and was highest in pediatric and in lower gastrointestinal tract surgery. The authors report a high rate of chronic abdominal pain in patients who were followed after lower gastrointestinal tract surgery, with adhesions identified as a significant cause of this pain. Following colorectal surgery for small bowel disease, pregnancy rates were found to be dramatically lower than the pregnancy rates in those who were medically treated. Additionally, patients who have had a prior surgery may require additional time in a subsequent procedure due to scar tissue, and adhesiolysis, used to break up adhesions, can lead to bowel injury.

Patients with postoperative adhesions, according to the systematic review, are most often treated by providers other than the one who did the surgery; the lack of awareness of the complication may be one reason that the incidence of adhesions is underestimated. The value of being aware of the higher incidence of postoperative adhesions may be in early recognition of a complication, surgical decision-making, and patient counseling. While the research is young in relation to adhesions and pelvic rehabilitation, one study that we previously discussed in the blog addresses visceral mobilization techniques in an animal model. While the animal model research is promising, there are numerous case reports describing the positive effects of visceral mobilization techniques for abdominopelvic pain, and therapists always report on the equally positive changes to their clinical practice outcomes after adding visceral techniques to their toolbox.

There are 2 upcoming opportunities to learn visceral mobilization: Level 1 in Scottsdale covering the Urologic system and Level 2 in Boston covering the reproductive system.

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