, Volume 14, Issue 10, pp 1619-1628
Date: 30 Mar 2010

The Incidence and Risk Factors of Post-Laparotomy Adhesive Small Bowel Obstruction

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The purpose of this review was to assess the incidence and risk factors for adhesive small bowel obstruction (SBO) following laparotomy.


The PubMed database was systematically reviewed to identify studies in the English literature delineating the incidence of adhesive SBO and reporting risk factors for the development of this morbidity.


A total of 446,331 abdominal operations were eligible for inclusion in this analysis. The overall incidence of SBO was 4.6%. The risk of SBO was highly influenced by the type of procedure, with ileal pouch–anal anastomosis being associated with the highest incidence of SBO (1,018 out of 5,268 cases or 19.3%), followed by open colectomy (11,491 out of 121,085 cases or 9.5%). Gynecological procedures were associated with an overall incidence of 11.1% (4,297 out of 38,751 cases) and ranged from 23.9% in open adnexal surgery, to 0.1% after cesarean section. The technique of the procedure (open vs. laparoscopic) also played a major role in the development of adhesive SBO. The incidence was 7.1% in open cholecystectomies vs. 0.2% in laparoscopic; 15.6% in open total abdominal hysterectomies vs. 0.0% in laparoscopic; and 23.9% in open adnexal operations vs. 0.0% in laparoscopic. There was no difference in SBO following laparoscopic or open appendectomies (1.4% vs. 1.3%). Separate closure of the peritoneum, spillage and retention of gallstones during cholecystectomy, and the use of starched gloves all increase the risk for adhesion formation. There is not enough evidence regarding the role of age, gender, and presence of cancer in adhesion formation.


Adhesion-related morbidity comprises a significant burden on healthcare resources and prevention is of major importance, especially in high-risk patients. Preventive techniques and special barriers should be considered in high-risk cases.