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Complications after abdominal surgery:

The term abdominal surgery broadly covers surgical procedures that involve opening the abdomen. Surgery of each abdominal organ is dealt with separately in connection with the description of that organ (see stomach, kidney, liver, etc.) Diseases affecting the abdominal cavity are dealt with generally under their own names (e.g. appendicitis).

Complications of abdominal surgery include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection - Local infection of the operative field is prevented by asepsis (using sterile materials), and prophylactic antibiotics are often given in abdominal surgery or patients known to have a heart defect or mechanical heart valves (that would be more prone to endocarditis

  • Post-surgical adhesions - abnormal bands of tissue that grow in the human body. They may be thought of as internal scar tissue. In the case of frozen shoulder (also known as adhesive capsulitis) adhesions grow between the shoulder joint surfaces, restricting motion.

    Abdominal adhesions are most commonly caused by abdominal surgical procedures. These adhesions may grow over time and become attached to the walls of the abdomen, as well as to internal organs. The adhesions may cause internal organs to attach to one another as well.

    One common complication of abdominal adhesions is intestinal obstruction, in which an adhesion wraps around an intestine and prevents the flow of material through the digestive tract. Depending on the severity of the obstruction, a partial obstruction may relieve itself without medical intervention. However, many obstructions, if left untreated, may result in death. It is important that in the event that an obstruction occurs, the affected individual seek medical treatment immediately. For complete obstructions, or partial obstructions that do not relieve themselves within 24 hours, surgical intervention may be required to remove the adhesion(s) via adhesiolysis. It may take months or years for adhesions to cause an obstruction post-surgery.

  • Shock - Shock is a serious, often life-threatening medical condition where insufficient blood flow reaches the body tissues. As blood is the body's carrier of oxygen and nutrients, insufficient flow leads to a deficiency in these components, which are necessary for proper tissue functioning. The process affected, where blood enters the tissues, is called perfusion and this process not occurring properly causes a hypoperfusional (hypo = below) state.

    For additional information on shock, please visit the Wikipedia site - Shock (medical)  Opens a new browser window.

  • Ileus or more commonly Paralytic Ileus (short-term paralysis of the bowel) - temporary paralysis of a portion of the intestines typically after an abdominal surgery. Since the intestinal content of this portion is unable to move forward, food or drink should be avoided until peristaltic sound is heard from auscultation of the area where this portion lies.

Sterile technique, aseptic post-operative care, antibiotics, and vigilant post-operative monitoring greatly reduce the risk of these complications. Planned surgery performed under sterile conditions is much less risky than that performed under emergency or unsterile conditions. The contents of the bowel are unsterile, and thus leakage of bowel contents, as from trauma, substantially increases the risk of infection.

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