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Br J Surg. 2010 Apr;97(4):470-8. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7019.

Systematic review and meta-analysis of the diagnostic and therapeutic role of water-soluble contrast agent in adhesive small bowel obstruction.

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Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.



This meta-analysis assessed the diagnostic and therapeutic role of water-soluble contrast agent (WSCA) in adhesive small bowel obstruction (SBO).


PubMed, Embase and Cochrane databases were searched systematically. The primary outcome in the diagnostic role of WSCA was its ability to predict the need for surgery. In the therapeutic role, the following were evaluated: resolution of SBO without surgery, time from admission to resolution, duration of hospital stay, complications and mortality. To assess the diagnostic role of WSCA, pooled estimates of sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and likelihood ratios were derived. For the therapeutic role of WSCA, weighted odds ratio (OR) and weighted mean difference (WMD) were obtained.


Fourteen prospective studies were included. The appearance of contrast in the colon within 4-24 h after administration had a sensitivity of 96 per cent and specificity of 98 per cent in predicting resolution of SBO. WSCA administration was effective in reducing the need for surgery (OR 0.62; P = 0.007) and shortening hospital stay (WMD -1.87 days; P < 0.001) compared with conventional treatment.


Water-soluble contrast was effective in predicting the need for surgery in patients with adhesive SBO. In addition, it reduced the need for operation and shortened hospital stay.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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