Large-bowel disease presenting as small-bowel obstruction is associated with a poor prognosis☆, ☆☆

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Small-bowel obstruction (SBO) is a common cause of admission to the surgical service. On rare occasions, a diagnosed SBO is actually due to large-bowel pathology combined with an incompetent ileocecal valve. The purpose of this study was to investigate this phenomenon.


We performed a retrospective medical record review of patients that were admitted with a diagnosis of SBO at University of Louisville hospital and the Veterans Affairs hospitals in Louisville, KY, from 2006 until 2014.


A total of 498 patients were admitted with SBO during this time period. Forty-one patients were found to have an underlying large-bowel disease. The most common large-bowel pathologies included malignancy (51%), inflammation (15%), and infection (15%). Fifteen (43%) of these patients died during admission; 93% of these were due to either their bowel obstruction or the underlying disease state. This was significantly higher than the general population (9.4% mortality, 6% due to underlying disease).


Patients that present with SBO due to a large-bowel source have a much higher mortality rate than those that present with other causes. Rapid identification of these patients will allow for more timely and appropriate treatment.

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