Scand J Surg. 2021 Jan 29:1457496920982763. doi: 10.1177/1457496920982763. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Approximately 75% of patients admitted with small bowel obstruction have intra-abdominal adhesions as their cause (adhesive small bowel obstruction). Up to 70% of adhesive small bowel obstruction cases, in the absence of strangulation and bowel ischemia, can be successfully treated with conservative management. However, emerging evidence shows that surgery performed early during the first episode of adhesive small bowel obstruction is highly effective. The objective of this narrative review is to summarize the current evidence on adhesive small bowel obstruction management strategies.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A review of the literature published over the last 20 years was performed to assess Who, hoW, Why, When, What, and Where diagnose and operate on patients with adhesive small bowel obstruction.
RESULTS: Adequate patient selection through physical examination and computed tomography is the key factor of the entire management strategy, as failure to detect patients with strangulated adhesive small bowel obstruction and bowel ischemia is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The indication for surgical exploration is usually defined as a failure to pass contrast into the ascending colon within 8-24 h. However, operative management with early adhesiolysis, defined as operative intervention on either the calendar day of admission or the calendar day after admission, has recently shown to be associated with an overall long-term survival benefit compared to conservative management. Regarding the surgical technique, laparoscopy should be used only in selected patients with an anticipated single obstructing band, and there should be a low threshold for conversion to an open procedure in cases of high risk of bowel injuries.
CONCLUSION: Although most adhesive small bowel obstruction patients without suspicion of bowel strangulation or gangrene are currently managed nonoperatively, the long-term outcomes following this approach need to be analyzed in a more exhaustive way, as surgery performed early during the first episode of adhesive small bowel obstruction has shown to be highly effective, with a lower rate of recurrence.