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Eur Radiol. 2001;11(8):1405-22.

Small bowel obstruction: the role of computed tomography in its diagnosis and management with reference to other imaging modalities.

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Department of Radiology, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London, UK.


Small bowel obstruction is a leading cause of acute surgical admissions for abdominal pain. There is an increasing tendency for initial conservative management rather than immediate operative intervention, as a proportion of cases will resolve spontaneously. This has resulted in a growing reliance on radiological investigations to reassure the surgeon that medical therapy can be safely instituted. The onus therefore rests with radiologists to guide their surgical colleagues by correctly interpreting the plain abdominal radiograph and suggesting appropriate further investigation if warranted. Recently, computed tomography (CT) has been proposed as the test of choice to define the level and cause of acute small bowel obstruction and to identify complications such as ischaemia and perforation which will prompt surgical intervention. This review will discuss the utility of early CT in the diagnosis of acute small bowel obstruction and outline its impact on patient management.

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