This study has presented the spectrum of postoperative gastrointestinal system complications after open heart surgery at the University of Washington from 1980 through 1983. The frequent necessity for operative intervention and a mortality rate of 17 percent in our study of gastrointestinal complications in patients who have undergone open heart surgery indicates the need for early diagnosis and treatment. The data suggest that bypass times approaching 100 minutes and the presence of postoperative cardiogenic shock are important risk factors in the development of such complications in elective cardiac surgery patients. An incidence of gastrointestinal complications of 8.6 percent in those undergoing repair of acute aortic dissections makes gastrointestinal complaints particularly suspicious in this subgroup.
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