Most Elective Colorectal Surgery Patients Receive Inadequate Bowel Preparation to Prevent Postoperative Complications, Study Shows

PHILADELPHIA (February 2, 2017) – In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University confirmed that oral antibiotics combined with mechanical bowel preparation were more effective at preventing surgical site infections after elective colorectal surgery compared to no bowel preparation or use of mechanical bowel preparation alone. Of note, more than half of patients who undergo elective colorectal surgery in the United States receive either no bowel preparation or mechanical bowel preparation alone. Nestor F. Esnaola, MD, MPH, professor of surgical oncology at Fox Chase, led the study, which appears in Annals of Surgery.

Surgical site infections are the most common type of hospital-acquired infection, affecting nearly 160,000 people every year, and costing an estimated $13,000 per infection. Every year surgeons perform tens of thousands of elective colorectal resections in the United States. The procedure is associated with particularly high rates of surgical site infection; surgeons can use a variety of approaches, including bowel preparation, to potentially reduce this risk.

Using the American College of Surgeons National Surgery Quality Improvement Program database, the research team analyzed data from more than 30,000 patients who underwent elective colorectal resections from 2012 to 2014. They studied patients who received no bowel preparation, mechanical bowel preparation alone, oral antibiotics alone, or the two combined.

Although there is ongoing debate within the surgical community regarding which, if any, method is most effective, the study provides compelling evidence that patients who receive oral antibiotics combined with mechanical bowel preparation are half as likely to develop a postoperative surgical site infection compared to patients who receive no preparation or mechanical bowel preparation alone. Patients who received the combination regimen also had lower rates of return to the operating room and readmission, and had shorter overall hospital stays. The study also suggests that oral antibiotics alone may be equally effective, whereas mechanical bowel preparation alone – which was used in more than a third of the patients in the study – is no more effective than no bowel preparation.

Of importance, the team noted that the combination regimen did not show higher rates of various adverse events often cited as reasons not to use these regimens, such as cardiac or renal complications, slower return of bowel function, or bowel leak.

“Our study shows that mechanical bowel preparation alone prior to this surgery is ineffective and should be abandoned,” said Esnaola. “The combination of oral antibiotics and mechanical bowel preparation is an effective tool to safely reduce surgical site infections, complications, and readmission after elective colorectal surgery. We should deploy this strategy whenever possible to protect our patients.”

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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