• Vol. 27 No. 6, 759–762
  • 15 November 1998

Abdominal Surgery in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infected Patients—Early Local Experience



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The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is increasing in Singapore. The surgical experience however, remains limited.

A retrospective review of 13 HIV-positive patients requiring abdominal surgery within Singapore was done. There were 4 females and 9 males with age ranging from 21 to 44 years. Operations included appendicectomy, colectomy, splenectomy, intestinal bypass, gastrostomy and exploratory laparotomy. Pathologic findings directly related to HIV infection were found in two-fifths (5 out of 13) of these patients. A low CD4+ count or signs of full-blown acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were not associated with a higher likelihood of HIV-related pathology, neither did it preclude a successful outcome. There were 2 early postoperative deaths both with HIV-related pathology. Five of our patients who survived their abdominal surgery died on follow-up with a median survival of 17 months.

In patients with typical surgical problems, e.g. appendicitis and torsion of the ovary, early surgery allows for rapid recovery similar to normal surgical patients. Care of these patients is best provided by surgeons with experience and interest in this condition together with infectious diseases physicians. Even palliative surgery offers a respite from acute and often severe problems and improves the quality of life significantly.

Two patients with AIDS presented with sepsis and diffuse abdominal tenderness. Subsequent laparotomy revealed only primary bacterial peritonitis. For patients with AIDS and non-localizing abdominal signs, alternative non-invasive diagnostic modalities such as computed tomographic (CT) scan should be considered.

The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is rising at an exponential rate in Singapore. The surgical experience with this disease remains limited.

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