A review of the radiological diagnosis of small bowel obstruction using various imaging modalities

A T Kidmas, J E Ekedigwe, A Z Sule, S D Pam
Nigerian Postgraduate Medical Journal 2005, 12 (1): 33-6
Radiological investigation is an important tool in the diagnosis of small bowel obstruction (SBO). While plain abdominal radiograph remains the commonest investigation done in SBO, contrast gastrointestinal radiography, ultrasonography (US), computerised tomography (CT) scan -- with or without contrast enhancement are increasingly being advocated particularly in equivocal cases of SBO. We conducted manual, medicine and internet search for relevant literature on diagnosis of SBO using radiological investigations. Plain abdominal radiograph has a diagnostic accuracy for SBO that varies widely from 50 - 92% . Contrast gastrointestinal radiograph in equivocal cases of adhesive SBO can readily differentiate between complete and partial obstruction. Abdominal ultrasound is cheap and readily available. Accuracy of as high as 89% has been reported in experienced hands. CT scan has an added advantage of predicting the site and cause of obstruction. In developing countries like ours, plain abdominal radiography still remains an important diagnostic tool. The role of abdominal ultrasonography needs further evaluation since it is safe, readily available and affordable.

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