Background: Postoperative adhesions are the most frequent complication of abdominal surgery, leading to high morbidity, mortality, and costs. However, the problem seems to be neglected by surgeons for largely unknown reasons.
Methods: A survey assessing knowledge and personal opinion about the extent and impact of adhesions was sent to all Dutch surgeons and surgical trainees. The informed-consent process and application of antiadhesive agents were questioned in addition.
Results: The response rate was 34.4%. Two thirds of all respondents (67.7%) agreed that adhesions exert a clinically relevant, negative effect. A negative perception of adhesions correlated with a positive attitude regarding adhesion prevention (ρ = 0.182, p < 0.001). However, underestimation of the extent and impact of adhesions resulted in low knowledge scores (mean test score 37.6%). Lower scores correlated with more uncertainty about indications for antiadhesive agents which, in turn, correlated with never having used any of these agents (ρ = 0.140, p = 0.002; ρ = 0.095, p = 0.035; respectively). Four in 10 respondents (40.9%) indicated that they never inform patients on adhesions and only 9.8% informed patients routinely. A majority of surgeons (55.9%) used antiadhesive agents in the past, but only a minority (13.4%) did in the previous year. Of trainees, 82.1% foresaw an increase in the use of antiadhesive agents compared to 64.5% of surgeons (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: The magnitude of the problem of postoperative adhesions is underestimated and informed consent is provided inadequately by Dutch surgeons. Exerting adhesion prevention is related to the perception of and knowledge about adhesions.