The Use of Water-Soluble Contrast in Evaluating Clinically Equivocal Small Bowel Obstructions

Blackmon, Shanda; Lucius, Chris; Wilson, John P.; Duncan, Titus; Wilson, Russell; Mason, Edward M.; Ramshaw, Bruce
March 2000
American Surgeon;Mar2000, Vol. 66 Issue 3, p238
Academic Journal
This study seeks to determine whether a 6-hour abdominal radiograph after oral Gastrografin is a reliable indicator for nonoperative treatment in patients with a clinically equivocal small bowel obstruction. We collected retrospective data from medical records. Patients who received a Gastrografin transit time (GGTT) study between January 1995 and September 1998 were included in the study. Patients who did not appear to be obvious operative candidates, but had signs of intestinal obstruction, underwent a GGTT study. Serial plain abdominal radiographs were taken. If the contrast was in the colon within 6 hours, then the result was negative. A total of 418 GGTT studies were reviewed. Contrast reached the colon within 6 hours in 283 (68%) patients, and 247 (88%) of these patients were managed nonoperatively. The positive predictive value, negative predictive value, sensitivity, and specificity of Gastrografin reaching the colon within 6 hours were 48, 87, 64, and 78, respectively. False negatives included high-grade partial obstructions that ultimately required surgery. Recent operation preceded the GGTT in 128 (31%) cases. Of these 128 patients, only 17 (14%) received an operation. Although the decision to operate or not should never be based on a GGTT study alone, GGTT studies are of significant help in the clinical management of patients suspected to have a small bowel obstruction. GGTT allows for the judicious selection of the appropriate patient for nonoperative management. GGTT studies are cost effective, safe, and clinically useful when attempting to treat patients conservatively.


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