Effectiveness of mechanical bowel preparation versus no preparation on anastomotic leakage in colorectal surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Jobbe P. L. Leenen
  • Judith E. K. R. Hentzen
  • Henrietta D. L. Ockhuijsen
Review Article


It has been a standard practice to perform mechanical bowel preparation (MBP) prior to colorectal surgery to reduce the risk of colorectal anastomotic leakages (CAL). The latest Cochrane systematic review suggests there is no benefit for MBP in terms of decreasing CAL, but new studies have been published. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to update current evidence for the effectiveness of preoperative MBP on CAL in patients undergoing colorectal surgery. Consequently, PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL and CINAHL were searched from 2010 to March 2017 for randomised controlled trials (RCT) that compared the effects of MBP in colorectal surgery on anastomotic leakages. The outcome CAL was expressed in odds ratios and analysed with a fixed-effects analysis in a meta-analysis. Quality assessment was performed by the cochrane risk of bias tool and grades of recommendation, assessment, development and evaluation (GRADE) methodology. Eight studies (1065 patients) were included. The pooled odds ratio showed no significant difference of MBP in colorectal surgery on CAL (odds ratio (OR) = 1.15, 95% CI = 0.68–1.94). According to GRADE methodology, the quality of the evidence was low. To conclude, MBP for colorectal surgery does not lower the risk of CAL. These results should, however, be interpreted with caution due to the small sample sizes and poor quality. Moreover, the usefulness of MBP in rectal surgery is not clear due to the lack of stratification in many studies. Future research should focus on high-quality, adequately powered RCTs in elective rectal surgery to determine the possible effects of MBP.


Colorectal surgery Anastomotic leaks Mechanical bowel preparation Oncology Systematic review 



Kind regards go to CLJJ Kruijtwagen, statistician of UMC Utrecht, for auditing the statistical procedures for the meta-analysis. The authors declare having received no support from any organisation for the submitted work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This article does not involve any studies with animals.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Italian Society of Surgery (SIC) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jobbe P. L. Leenen
    • 1
  • Judith E. K. R. Hentzen
    • 2
  • Henrietta D. L. Ockhuijsen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryIsala HospitalZwolleThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryUniversity Medical Centre GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Reproductive Medicine and GynaecologyUniversity Medical Centre UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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