Upper gastrointestinal contrast study in the management of small bowel obstruction--a prospective randomised study

Eur J Surg. 2000 Jan;166(1):39-43. doi: 10.1080/110241500750009681.


Objective: To find out whether contrast radiography helps to resolve small bowel obstruction.

Design: Prospective randomised trial.

Setting: University hospital, Norway.

Subjects: 98 consecutive patients with symptoms of small bowel obstruction and a plain abdominal radiograph that confirmed the diagnosis.

Interventions: The patients were randomly allocated to receive a mixture of barium and sodium diatrizoate (Gastrografin) (n = 48) or not (n = 50). Both groups were followed up clinically and by repeated abdominal films.

Main outcome measures: Non-operative resolution of small bowel obstruction; number of patients with strangulated bowel; bowel resections; mortality; complications; hospital stay; and time from admission to operation.

Results: No significant differences were observed between the groups in the incidence of non-operative resolution (31/48 in contrast group, 35/50 in control group, OR: 0.89), strangulation obstruction (1/48 in contrast group, 4/50 in control group, OR: 0.24), bowel resection (3/48 in contrast group, 4/50 in control group, OR: 0.76), complications (8/48 in contrast group, 5/50 in control group, OR: 1.80), mortality (3/48 in contrast group, 1/50 in control group, OR: 3.26), and hospital stay (0-7 days: 34/48 in contrast group, 38/50 in control group, p = 0.95). The contrast group had a shorter interval between admission and operation than the control group (0-24 hours: 12/48 in contrast group, 3/50 in control group, p = 0.005).

Conclusion: The contrast examination did not contribute to the resolution of small bowel obstruction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Barium Sulfate*
  • Contrast Media*
  • Diatrizoate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery
  • Intestine, Small* / diagnostic imaging
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography
  • Tissue Adhesions / diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment Failure


  • Contrast Media
  • Diatrizoate
  • Barium Sulfate