Nearly a third of people who have open abdominal or pelvic surgery have to return to hospital because of internal scarring, known as adhesions.
This alarming problem has been highlighted by Scottish research, which looked at the records of 29,790 people who had one of the operations in 1986. In the following 10 years, 1,209 had to be readmitted because of adhesions, and a further 8,240 because of "possible adhesions".
Around 20 per cent of the readmissions happened in the first year following surgery, but there was a steady stream who had to return some time during the following 10 years.
It remains to be seen if keyhole surgery will be successful in reducing the numbers of readmissions (Lancet, 1999; 353: 1476-80).