Role of surgical treatment in the management of complications of the gastrointestinal tract in patients with leukemia

H. V. Villar, J. A. Warneke, M. D. Peck, B. Durie, J. C. Bjelland, T. B. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The clinical course of patients with leukemia, specifically after treatment, is complicated by opportunistic infections, often derived from the gastrointestinal tract. Four hundred and thirty-eight patients with leukemia were treated at the Arizona Health Sciences Center from 1976 to 1985. Fifty-five (13 per cent) had 60 major gastrointestinal complications develop. Thirty-seven were treated medically with a mortality rate of 51 per cent, while 18 who were treated surgically had a 17 per cent mortality rate. These infections usually occur during induction or consolidation chemotherapy. Positive blood cultures and white blood cell counts of less than 2,500 per millimeter are a frequent occurrence. The most common complications of the gastrointestinal tract are enterocolitis, perirectal sepsis and bleeding. Because of the combined defects in phagocytosis (neutropenia), antibody production and cell mediated immunity, opportunistic infections (such as viral, fungal, parasitic or bacterial) are frequent and often lethal, despite routine antibiotic coverage. A protocol to identify a subset of patients with septic leukemia who may require emergency surgical treatment is vital since death in this group is most commonly from undiagnosed sepsis or progression of hematologic defects. This protocol should include repeated physical examinations, daily roentgenograms of the abdomen, liberal use of endoscopy, contrast roentgenography and computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound. Extensive surgical procedures can be safely carried out in patients with leukemia. The diagnosis of leukemia should not be a deterrent to emergency surgical exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-222
Number of pages6
JournalSurgery Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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