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Longer trials of non-operative management for adhesive small bowel obstruction are associated with increased complications

Fung B, Behman R, Nguyen MA, Nathens AB, Hong NJL, Pechlivanoglou P, Karanicolas PJ. J Gastrointest Surg. 2019; May 6 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1007/s11605-019-04156-6.


Background — Current guidelines for the management of adhesive small bowel obstruction suggest a limited trial of non-operative management, often of 3–5 days. A longer delay to operation may worsen post-operative outcomes in patients who ultimately require operation. Our objective was to evaluate the impact of time to operation on post-operative outcomes in patients who undergo operation following a trial of non-operative management for adhesive small bowel obstruction.

Methods — We used health administrative data to identify patients with adhesive small bowel obstruction who underwent operative management following a trial of non-operative management from 2005 to 2014 in the province of Ontario, Canada. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine the relationship between the time from admission to operation with rates of 30-day mortality, serious complication, and bowel resection.

Results — Three thousand five hundred sixty-three patients underwent operation after a trial of non-operative management for adhesive small bowel obstruction. Older patients, patients with a high comorbidity burden, and patients with a lower socioeconomic status were more likely to experience a longer pre-operative period. After adjusting for covariates, each additional day from admission to operation increased odds of serious complication (OR = 1.07, 95% CI = 1.03–1.11) and bowel resection (OR = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.03–1.98). Longer times to operation were not associated with greater adjusted odds of 30-day mortality.

Conclusion — Each additional day from admission to operation is associated with greater odds of adverse outcomes. Clinical practice guidelines should emphasize strategies that identify patients who will ultimately require operation.

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