, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 987-992
Date: 07 Apr 2010

Ultimate Fate of the Leaking Intestinal Anastomosis: Does Leak Mean Permanent Stoma?

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The ultimate fate of the leaking intestinal anastomosis is unknown. We sought to analyze long-term outcomes of anastomotic leak with an emphasis on identifying the likelihood of re-establishing intestinal continuity and the potential for releak with corrective surgery.


All consecutive subjects treated for clinical anastomotic leak from January 2001 through December 2007 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were stratified by management of leak: (1) drainage alone, (2) proximal loop diversion, (3) repair/revision without diversion, (4) end stoma, or (5) tube enterostomy. We then determined management of anastomotic leak, mortality, corrective procedures, releak, and re-establishment of intestinal continuity.


In a database of 2,627 intestinal procedures, 79 patients had 88 anastomotic leaks with a final overall mortality of 10.1%. The aggregate rate of re-establishment of intestinal continuity was lowest for the patients treated by end stoma (44.4%) as compared to other initial management options (p < 0.01). Of the patients who survived their initial anastomotic leak, 20.5% had another leak (releak).


Patients who underwent resection of the leaking anastomosis and end stoma or proximal loop diversion have a high rate of long-term fecal diversion. The proportion of patients who experience an anastomotic releak is substantial following further corrective surgery to re-establish intestinal continuity.