Secondary Causes of Intestinal Obstruction: Rigorous Preoperative Evaluation is Required

Jenkins, Joseph T.; Taylor, Andrew J.; Behrns, Kevin E.
July 2000
American Surgeon;Jul2000, Vol. 66 Issue 7, p662
Academic Journal
The clinical presentation, management and outcome of patients with small intestinal and large bowel obstruction unrelated to adhesive or primary colonic neoplastic disease is not well described. The aim of this study was to determine the clinical presentation, evaluation, operative management, and outcome in patients with secondary causes of intestinal obstruction. The medical records of 200 patients who underwent an operation for intestinal obstruction from January 1995 through December 1997 were reviewed. Seventy-three patients (37%) had secondary causes of intestinal obstruction, and these records were reviewed in detail. The cohort included 37 men and 36 women with a mean age of 52 +/-2 years. The etiology of intestinal obstruction was metastatic neoplastic obstruction (19%), colonic volvulus (18%), Crohn's disease (14%), herniae (11%), diverticular disease (7%), and miscellaneous causes (31%). Six patients (8%) had intestinal motor disorders and a misdiagnosis of intestinal obstruction. The clinical presentation of patients with secondary causes of obstruction was similar to typical patients with adhesive small bowel obstruction. Preoperative evaluation included frequent use of CT (42%), but intestinal contrast studies were used in 13 (18%) patients only. Two-thirds of the patients required an intestinal resection, and 50 per cent of the patients with a misdiagnosis had a nontherapeutic celiotomy. Operative mortality and morbidity were 3 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively, and 15 per cent of patients required reoperation. Suspected intestinal obstruction from secondary causes requires rigorous preoperative evaluation with liberal use of intestinal contrast examinations to avoid misdiagnosis, operative complications, and reoperations.


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