Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is one of the most common emergent complications of general surgery. Intra-abdominal adhesions are the leading cause of SBO. Because surgery can induce new adhesions, non-operative management is preferred in the absence of signs of peritonitis or strangulation. Oral traditional Chinese herbal medicine has long been used as a non-operative therapy to treat adhesive SBO in China. Many controlled trials have been conducted to investigate its therapeutic value in resolving adhesive SBO. The aim of this review was to assess the efficacy and safety of oral traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for adhesive small bowel obstruction. We searched the following databases, without regard to language or publishing restrictions: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, Chinese Biomedical Database (CBM), China National Knowledge Infrastructure/Chinese Academic Journals full-text Database (CNKI), and VIP (a full-text database of Chinese journals). The searches were conducted in November 2011. Randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing Chinese medicines administered orally, via the gastric canal, or both with a placebo or conventional therapy in participants diagnosed with adhesive SBO were considered. We also considered trials of TCM (oral administration, gastric tube perfusion, or both) plus conventional therapy compared with conventional therapy alone for patients with adhesive SBO. Studies addressing the safety and efficacy of oral traditional Chinese medicinal agents in the treatment of adhesive SBO were also considered. Two authors collected the data independently. We assessed the risk of bias according to the following methodological criteria: random sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding, incomplete outcome data, selective outcome reporting and other sources of bias. Dichotomous data are presented as risk ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI); continuous outcomes are presented as mean differences (MD) and 95% CIs. The data analyses were carried out using Review Manager 5.1. For cases in which necessary information was not reported in the paper, we contacted the primary authors for additional information. Five randomised trials involving 664 participants were analysed. Five different herbal medicines were tested in these trials, including Huo-Xue-Tong-Fu decoction, Xiao-Cheng-Qi-Tang decoction, a combination of Xiao-Cheng-Qi-Tang and Si-Jun-Zi-Tang decoctions, Chang-Nian-Lian-Song-Jie-Tang decoction, and Fufang-Da-Cheng-Qi-Tang decoction. There were variations in the tested herbal compositions and methods of medicine administration. The main outcomes reported in the trials were effects on abdominal pain, abdominal distension, constipation defection, time of first defecation after treatment, and reoperation rate during the course of the disease. Secondary outcomes selected for this review were not available, including complications such as small bowel perfusion (bowel resection, system complications, and other possible complications), length of hospital stay, cost of hospitalisation, and time from admission to surgical intervention. The results of five trials showed that patients receiving TCM combined with conventional therapy seemed to have improved outcomes compared with patients receiving conventional treatment alone (OR 4.24, 95% CI 2.83 to 6.36).However, we cannot conclusively determine the efficacy of TCM in this review due to inadequate reporting, low methodological quality, and the prevalence of various biases in the reviewed studies. Furthermore, because none of the reviewed trials discussed adverse events, we could not evaluate the safety of TCM for adhesive SBO patients. All trials were conducted and published in China. Although many studies have assessed the use of TCM products for adhesive SBO, most were excluded from this review due to their methodological limitations. This systematic review did not find sufficient evidence to support the objective efficacy and safety of TCM for patients with adhesive SBO. The positive evidence should be interpreted with caution given the insufficient number of studies with large sample sizes, the absence of well-designed, high-quality trials, and the lack of safety information. Therefore, further studies with larger sample sizes and high-quality, randomised, and controlled trials are necessary to produce more accurate and meaningful data on the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicines for adhesive SBO.
Suo, T., Gu, X., Andersson, R., Ma, H., Zhang, W., Deng, W., … Qin, X. (2012). Oral traditional Chinese medication for adhesive small bowel obstruction. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd008836.pub2