PURPOSE: Efficient mechanical bowel preparation has been regarded as essential in preventing postoperative complications of colorectal surgery, but the necessity of bowel cleansing has been disputed recently. The aim of this study was to evaluate the outcome of elective colorectal surgery in patients with or without bowel preparation. METHODS: Altogether, 267 consecutive adult patients admitted for elective open colorectal surgery were randomly assigned either to the bowel preparation group with oral polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution (138 patients) or no preparation group (129 patients). Patients who were unable to drink polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution, those who had had bowel preparation within the previous week, and patients not needing opening of the bowel were excluded. Routine colorectal surgery was undertaken, and infectious and other complications were registered daily. Late complications were checked up one to two months after surgery. RESULTS: No deaths were recorded, and 76 percent of the patients in the polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution group and 81 percent in the unprepared group recovered without complication. Anastomotic leaks occurred in 4 percent of the polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution patients and in 2 percent of the other cases, and other surgical site infections occurred in 6 and 5 percent, respectively. None of the differences was statistically significant. There was no difference in restoration of bowel function. The median postoperative stay was eight days in both groups. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative bowel preparation seems to offer no benefit in elective open colorectal surgery.
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