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Int Surg. 1989 Jan-Mar;74(1):23-7.

Small bowel obstruction and its management.

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Department of Surgery, Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Diego, California.


We present a retrospective analysis of 105 instances of small bowel obstruction (SBO) in 80 patients admitted to our hospital over a ten year period. Adhesions accounted for 73% of the cases and secondary involvement by malignancy for 13%. Appendectomy, colorectal and other pelvic procedures were the most frequent surgical antecedents responsible for the adhesions. In the 86% of cases with a temperature over 100 degrees F there was significant morbidity, mortality and/or strangulation, and this sign also foretold a prolonged hospital stay. Leukocytosis, when present along with abdominal tenderness also predicted a prolonged hospital stay. Strangulation occurred in 4.7% of the instances and was accompanied by at least one of the "classical symptoms". Fourty-five percent of the instances were successfully managed by conservative measures alone, whereas 55% had had surgical treatment. The mean hospital stay for all cases was 15.3 days. The morbidity rate for this series was 21% with a mortality of 3.8%. The largest single cause of death was related to malignant disease (three of four cases). When post-operative adhesions were the etiology, the hospital stay was 8.5 +/- 1.3 days for those treated with conservative measures compared with 16.5 +/- 1.8 days for those in whom a surgical procedure was performed (p less than 0.0001). This latter group also has a higher morbidity (32% compared to 5% for the non-operative group).

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