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Eur J Gynaecol Oncol. 2010;31(1):31-6.

Possible role of palliative surgery for bowel obstruction in advanced ovarian cancer patients.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.



Bowel obstruction is a relatively common event (30-40%) in advanced or recurrent ovarian cancer patients. No definitive data are available on the optimal management of this serious complication and treatment is generally limited to adoption of palliative measures. These modalities include both surgical and medical procedures. The aim of this study was to define selection criteria for subjects who would benefit from palliative surgery.


Out of 270 epithelial ovarian cancer patients treated in the period 1984-2005, 75 (28%) developed bowel obstruction related to progression/recurrence of the disease. Palliative treatment - both medical and surgical - was applied on an individual basis. A new score developed by these authors was retrospectivelly applied to this group of patients with the aim of defining a subgroup that could benefit from surgical treatment.


Fifty cases (66.7%) were medically treated whereas 25 patients (33.3%) underwent surgery. Mean and median survival rates were 34 and 28 weeks in the surgical group versus 12 and four weeks in the medical group. Distribution according to score showed 53 cases (71%) in the low score group (< 14) and 22 (29%) in the high score group (> 14). A significantly better survival was observed in the low-score group (p < 0.0001) and in the surgically treated patients (p < 0.001). According to the risk score variables patients treated surgically for obstruction with low scores had a longer survival (p < 0.005) compared to medical treatment but this difference was not found in the high-risk group (p < 0.05).


The prognosis of patients with bowel obstruction in relation to advanced ovarian cancer is best determined by comprehensive assessment of all prognostic parameters to define a subgroup of patients in a low-risk group that may benefit from surgical treatment.

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