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Adv Surg. 2011;45:1-29.

Current management of small bowel obstruction.

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Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


SBO is a common disease with multiple causes. The most significant advances over the past several years have involved, first, decision-making techniques to promptly and accurately identify patients who will require exploration, and, second, the increasing use of laparoscopic techniques. "Complete" bowel obstruction is becoming an outdated term, as treatment algorithms use predictive models and oral contrast challenges to select patients for operation without recourse to the notion of "complete obstruction." Laparoscopic techniques are gaining acceptance as a primary modality in the treatment of SBO. Appropriate patient selection is necessary for success, but successful laparoscopic SBO management can reduce postoperative pain, minimize hospital stay, and may lead to fewer adhesions, possibly preventing further adhesive SBO. Strangulation obstruction is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in SBO. Although unrecognized strangulation obstructions remain, their incidence is decreasing with the new protocols in development. Future efforts should focus on incorporating predictive models into management with the goal of eliminating unrecognized strangulation obstructions. Further refinement of the predictive models incorporating outcomes of oral contrast challenges and molecular biomarker data may allow surgeons to reach this goal. In addition, the benefit of the elimination of interpractitioner variability conferred by standardized protocols will in itself improve patient outcomes.

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