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Repeat bowel obstruction surgery: a thing of the past?

Life-threatening bowel obstructions occur when internal scar tissue blocks food from passing through the intestines. Unable to eat, many patients face death without emergency surgery. Recent studies show a manual physical therapy that feels like deep massage decreased obstructions and surgeries, and increased patients’ quality of life.

The body creates internal scars called adhesions after infection, trauma, or surgery. Adhesions can squeeze intestines shut – a life-threatening condition requiring repeat surgery, which can then create more adhesions. Now, a unique physical therapy that feels like a deep massage is showing promise in breaking the vicious cycle of repeat surgeries for this life-threatening condition.

The Clear Passage Approach®, a 20-hour manual physical therapy program, was shown to clear obstruction and eliminate intestinal stricture (narrowing) – procedures generally performed by surgery (Journal of Clinical Medicine).

Scientists recently began measuring “repeat surgery” rates among patients. “Without the therapy, the expected rate for a repeat surgery was 30%, just 24 months after obstruction surgery,” said Dr. Amanda Rice, a research scientist familiar with the work. “That rate dropped to 3% after 19 months, for those who had the therapy.” (Decreasing Post-Surgical Adhesions with a Manual Physical Therapy, 2015, ISBN 978-1-634-703-4)

“The ramifications are significant,” said Leonard Weinstock, MD, President, Specialists in Gastroenterology and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. “Any conservative therapy that can be shown to decrease surgical adhesions or deter repeat obstructions is welcome news.”

A 2016 study in Biomed Research International reported the therapy was safe for all participants and returned most to normal lives. Significant improvements were shown for pain, range of motion, gastrointestinal symptoms and overall quality of life. That study (Treating Small Bowel Obstruction with a Manual Physical Therapy: A Controlled Prospective Efficacy Study).