Introduction: A minority of patients with unlocalised massive lower gastrointestinal bleeding (LGIB) will require treatment with emergency subtotal colectomy (STC).
Methods: To determine the outcome of STC in this high-risk group, we retrospectively reviewed the histopathology reports and case records of all subtotal colectomies performed for LGIB over a 8-year period.
Results: Fifty-eight patients (mean age: 71 years; male to female ratio, 1 : 1) underwent emergency surgery for unlocalised LGIB, 45% of which were massive on admission, and unresponsive to resuscitation. The remainder had persistent or recurrent bleeding during the index hospitalisation. The hospitalisation for colectomy represented the first for LGIB for 56% of the study group, while 38% were on at least their third such admission. All but three patients underwent preoperative rigid proctosigmoidoscopy. Fifty-five of the 58 patients were treated with STC and primary ileorectal anastomosis. The major causes of bleeding were diverticular disease only (68%), angiodysplasia only (12%) and both diseases (12%). Overall mortality was 17%, with the main contributor being sepsis resulting from anastomotic leak. Non-fatal complications occurred in 20%, resulting in a mean postoperative length of stay of 13 days. All patients were doing well on their first follow-up visit with a mean number of four stools per day after 1 month.
Conclusion: While emergency STC is an effective and definitive method of treating unlocalised massive LGIB, its associated morbidity and mortality may limit its usefulness.