Bowel obstruction CT

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Bowel obstruction Microchapters


Patient Information


Historical Perspective




Differentiating Bowel obstruction from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors


Natural History, Complications and Prognosis


Diagnostic study of choice

History and Symptoms

Physical Examination

Laboratory Findings


X Ray



Echocardiography or Ultrasound

Other Imaging Findings

Other Diagnostic Studies


Medical Therapy


Non-operative Management

Primary Prevention

Secondary Prevention

Cost-Effectiveness of Therapy

Future or Investigational Therapies

Case Studies

Case #1

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hadeel Maksoud M.D.[2]


Abdominal CT scan may be helpful in the diagnosis of bowel obstruction. Findings on CT scan suggestive of bowel obstruction include dilated bowel loops with air-fluid level, distal collapsed bowel, in addition to, "Target", "Whirl" and "Venous cut-off" signs.

CT scan

A non-straight border indicates a small bowel obstruction on CT by James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Advantages over X-ray

Timing of CT scan

  • It is recommended to perform an X-ray first, especially if intervention is needed immediately, since X-rays are readily available, afford less radiation to the patient and are more cost effective.
  • However, CT scan is more effective at determining those cases that need surgical intervention and can provide more surgical detail.

Sensitivity and specificity of CT scanning according to slice margin

Slice thickness (mm) Sensitivity Specificity
50 79 87
5 -10 87 81
0.75 96 100

The comparison table for diagnostic studies of choice for bowel obstruction[5]

Sensitivity Specificity
CT 93% 100%
X-ray 50% 75%


  1. Catena F, Di Saverio S, Kelly MD, Biffl WL, Ansaloni L, Mandalà V, Velmahos GC, Sartelli M, Tugnoli G, Lupo M, Mandalà S, Pinna AD, Sugarbaker PH, Van Goor H, Moore EE, Jeekel J (2011). "Bologna Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Adhesive Small Bowel Obstruction (ASBO): 2010 Evidence-Based Guidelines of the World Society of Emergency Surgery". World J Emerg Surg. 6: 5. doi:10.1186/1749-7922-6-5. PMC 3037327. PMID 21255429.
  2. Mullan CP, Siewert B, Eisenberg RL (2012). "Small bowel obstruction". AJR Am J Roentgenol. 198 (2): W105–17. doi:10.2214/AJR.10.4998. PMID 22268199.
  3. Markogiannakis H, Messaris E, Dardamanis D, Pararas N, Tzertzemelis D, Giannopoulos P, Larentzakis A, Lagoudianakis E, Manouras A, Bramis I (2007). "Acute mechanical bowel obstruction: clinical presentation, etiology, management and outcome". World J. Gastroenterol. 13 (3): 432–7. PMC 4065900. PMID 17230614.
  4. Balthazar EJ (1994). "George W. Holmes Lecture. CT of small-bowel obstruction". AJR Am J Roentgenol. 162 (2): 255–61. doi:10.2214/ajr.162.2.8310906. PMID 8310906.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Suri S, Gupta S, Sudhakar PJ, Venkataramu NK, Sood B, Wig JD (1999). "Comparative evaluation of plain films, ultrasound and CT in the diagnosis of intestinal obstruction". Acta Radiol. 40 (4): 422–8. PMID 10394872.

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