Acute small bowel volvulus in adults. A sporadic form of strangulating intestinal obstruction

Ann Surg. 1992 Aug;216(2):135-41. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199208000-00003.


Small bowel volvulus is an uncommon but important cause of small intestinal obstruction. It often results in ischemia or even infarction. Delay in diagnosis and surgical intervention increases morbidity and mortality rates. Based on cause, small bowel volvulus can be divided into primary and secondary type. Goals for treatment of small bowel volvulus should include physician awareness of this uncommon diagnosis, accurate workup, and advanced surgical intervention. The presentation and subsequent management of 35 patients with small bowel volvulus confirmed by laparotomy are reviewed and discussed. The incidence of small bowel volvulus in the adult European and North American is low. The resultant mortality rate, however, makes diagnosis critically important. The cardinal presenting symptom is abdominal pain. There is no single specific diagnostic clinical sign or abnormality in laboratory or radiologic finding. In practice, the diagnosis can only be made by laparotomy. The failure to perform an exploratory laparotomy cannot be justified. Early diagnosis and early surgery are the keys for successful management of strangulation obstruction of the small bowel.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen, Acute
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Intestinal Obstruction / epidemiology*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery
  • Intestine, Small*
  • Laparotomy
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Prevalence