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Postoperative tetanus in abdominal surgery: scope review

MOJ Surgery
Giuliana Fulco Gonçalves,1 Italo Barros Miranda,1 Amália Cinthia Meneses do Rêgo,2 Irami Araújo-Filho2

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Postoperative tetanus is a rare, often forgotten, but potentially fatal complication of abdominal surgery. The purpose of this paper is to review the available literature on postoperative tetanus following abdominal surgery, including its incidence, risk factors, clinical features, management, and outcomes. A comprehensive search of the PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Lilacs, and Google Scholar databases was conducted using relevant keywords (“Tetanus,” “abdominal surgery,” “Postoperative”), and a total of 1.182 articles were identified for review, with 11 being selected. The incidence of postoperative tetanus following abdominal surgery is very low, with only a few case reports published in the literature. Most cases occurred in patients with risk factors such as chronic alcoholism, diabetes, and malnutrition. The clinical presentation of postoperative tetanus can be variable, ranging from mild symptoms such as muscle stiffness and spasm to severe features such as respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. The diagnosis of postoperative tetanus is primarily clinical and is based on characteristic symptoms and signs. Treatment involves prompt administration of tetanus immunoglobulin, wound debridement, and supportive care. In conclusion, postoperative tetanus following abdominal surgery is a rare but severe complication that requires immediate recognition and management. Clinicians should be aware of the risk factors for tetanus and take appropriate preventive measures, such as preoperative vaccination, in high-risk patients.


tetanus; postoperative; abdominal surgery, surgery