BACKGROUND: Laparotomy for bowel resection is causally related to the development of small bowel obstruction (SBO) and ventral hernia, with incidences approaching 12% to 15% each. This report attempts to define the incidence of these access-related complications in a large group of patients undergoing laparoscopic-assisted bowel resection (LABR) and open bowel operation (OPEN). STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective cohort of 716 consecutive patients undergoing either LABR (n = 211) or OPEN (n = 505) procedures between January 1995 and July 2000 was identified and selected from a prospective registry. RESULTS: Index LABR (n = 211) and OPEN (n = 505) cases included segmental colectomy in 146 LABR and 408 OPEN patients; subtotal colectomy with or without stoma in 18 LABR and 6 OPEN patients; ileocolectomy in 37 LABR and 85 OPEN patients; and small bowel resection in 10 LABR and 6 OPEN patients. The mean followup periods in the LABR and OPEN groups were 2.71 years and 2.42 years, respectively. The incidence of wound hernia was significantly higher in OPEN cases (n = 65) compared with LABR (n = 5) (p < 0.05). The incidence of surgical repair of ventral hernia was also significantly higher in the OPEN group (28) compared with LABR (4) (p < 0.05). Postoperative SBO requiring hospitalization with conservative management occurred significantly less frequently in LABR patients (n = 4) compared with OPEN patients (n = 31) (p = 0.016). The need for surgical release of SBO was similar between the OPEN and LABR groups (n = 4 versus n = 11). The overall reoperation rate for these two complications was two times higher in the OPEN group than in the LABR group (7.7% versus 3.8%). CONCLUSIONS: The data demonstrate that laparoscopic access for bowel operation significantly reduces the incidence of ventral hernia and SBO rates compared with laparotomy. This reduces the need for readmission to the hospital and additional surgical procedures, providing a potential source of decreased morbidity. It should be considered as a means of cost savings associated with laparoscopic bowel operations.
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