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Challenges in optimising recovery after emergency laparotomy

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Standardised peri-operative care pathways for patients undergoing emergency laparotomy or laparoscopy for non-traumatic pathologies have been shown to be inadequate and associated with high morbidity and mortality. Recent research has highlighted this problem and showed that simple pathways with 'rescue' interventions have been associated with reduced mortality when implemented successfully. These rescue pathways have focused on early diagnosis and surgery, specialist surgeon and anaesthetist involvement, goal-directed therapy and intensive or intermediary postoperative care for high-risk patients. In elective surgery, enhanced recovery has resulted in reduced length of stay and morbidity by the application of procedure-specific, evidence-based interventions inside rigorously implemented patient pathways based on multidisciplinary co-operation. The focus has been on attenuation of peri-operative stress and pain management to facilitate early recovery. Patients undergoing emergency laparotomy are a heterogeneous group consisting mostly of patients with intestinal perforations and/or obstruction with varying levels of comorbidity and frailty. However, present knowledge of the different pathophysiology and peri-operative trajectory of complications in these patient groups is limited. In order to move beyond rescue pathways and to establish enhanced recovery for emergency laparotomy, it is essential that research on both the peri-operative pathophysiology of the different main patient groups - intestinal obstruction and perforation - and the potentially differentiated impact of interventions is carried out. Procedure- and pathology-specific knowledge is lacking on key elements of peri-operative care, such as: multimodal analgesia; haemodynamic optimisation and fluid management; attenuation of surgical stress; nutritional optimisation; facilitation of mobilisation; and the optimal use and organisation of specialised wards and improved interdisciplinary collaboration. As such, the future challenges in improving peri-operative patient care in emergency laparotomy are moving from simple rescue pathways to establish research that can form a basis for morbidity- and procedure-specific enhanced recovery protocols as seen in elective surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Issue numberS1
Pages (from-to)e83-e89
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • analgesia, emergency laparotomy, enhanced recovery, fluid management, peri-operative

ID: 58903260