Methods: Systematic literature searches in electronic databases, conference proceedings, and hand searches of reference lists of previously retrieved literature without any language restrictions were used. Only randomized trials were included. A quality assessment of each retrieved trial was performed. Outcome measures were surgical infections, mortality, and anastomotic dehiscence. Meta-analyses of the selected trials were performed using the Peto odds ratio.
The results of each outcome were as follows. 1). Overall anastomotic leakage-six studies: 5.5 percent with cleansing compared with 2.9 percent without cleansing; odds ratio 1.94, 95 percent confidence interval: 1.09 to 3.43 (P = 0.02). 2). Peritonitis-three studies: 5.1 percent with cleansing compared with 2.8 percent without cleansing; odds ratio 1.90, 95 percent confidence interval: 0.78 to 4.64 (not significant). 3). Wound infection-six studies: 7.4 percent with cleansing compared with 5.7 percent without cleansing; odds ratio 1.34, 95 percent confidence interval: 0.85 to 2.13 (not significant).
Conclusion: There is no evidence in the literature for beneficial effects from the use of bowel cleansing before elective colorectal surgery. Cleansing seems to be associated with an increased risk of more anastomotic dehiscence. Further studies stratifying between rectal and colonic surgery are warranted.