General Postoperative Complications

Daniel I. Chu, David J. Maron

Key Concepts

  • Complications following colorectal surgery are not infrequent, making recognition and treatment an important component of the care of postoperative patients.
  • Assessment of risk factors (particularly modifiable factors) can help to estimate and reduce the risk of postoperative complications.
  • Gastrointestinal complications are the most frequent complications after major abdominal operations and range from minor nausea/vomiting to ileus and bowel obstruction.
  • Postoperative bleeding and transfusions are the second most common complication following colorectal surgery, and additional complications such as venous thromboembolism can have major impacts on patients and healthcare systems.
  • Infectious complications following colorectal surgery include surgical site infections (SSIs) – which include both incisional and organ space infections, as well as postoperative urinary tract infections and pseudomembranous colitis.
  • Pulmonary complications in colorectal surgical patients include pneumonia, aspiration, and postoperative respiratory failure requiring prolonged ventilation.

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Last updated: January 26, 2022