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Aust N Z J Surg. 1993 May;63(5):367-71.

The safety and duration of non-operative treatment for adhesive small bowel obstruction.

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Department of Surgery, Goulburn Valley Base Hospital, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia.


Small bowel obstruction (SBO) due to adhesions is often initially treated non-operatively but the safety and duration of non-operative treatment is controversial. The aims of this study were to assess the safety of non-operative treatment and determine the optimal duration of non-operative treatment in adhesive SBO. A retrospective analysis of patients admitted with a diagnosis of adhesive SBO following an initial period of non-operative treatment was performed. Patients whose condition resolved with non-operative treatment were compared with patients who required surgical intervention after an initial period of non-operative treatment. There were 123 admissions having an initial period of non-operative treatment. The SBO resolved in 85, the remaining 38 required surgical intervention. Complete resolution occurred within 48 h in 75 (88%) cases, the remaining 10 had resolved by 72 h. Thirty-one of 38 patients required surgical intervention for SBO more than 48 h duration after admission. The difference between cases resolving within 48 h and those requiring surgery after 48 h was significant (chi 2 = 113, P < 0.001). Three (2.4%) patients, initially treated non-operatively, had small bowel strangulation. All three were operated on within 24 h of admission when changes in clinical findings suggested small bowel strangulation may be present. There were no deaths in the group having an initial period of non-operative treatment. In the absence of any signs of strangulation, patients with an adhesive SBO can be managed safely with non-operative treatment. Most cases of adhesive SBO that will resolve, do so within 48 h of admission.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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