Malignant bowel obstruction: natural history of a heterogeneous patient population followed prospectively over two years

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Feb;41(2):412-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.05.007. Epub 2010 Dec 4.


Context: The management of malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) is often challenging and frequently involves multiple treatment modalities, including chemotherapy, surgery, stenting, and symptomatic medical management.

Objectives: To describe the natural history of patients diagnosed with MBO who were admitted to a tertiary level hospital and followed by a multidisciplinary team that included medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, and palliative care specialists.

Methods: Thirty-five patients admitted under medical or surgical oncology with a diagnosis of MBO were followed over a two-year period or until the time of death. Primary malignancies included colon, rectum, pancreas, biliary, breast, bladder, carcinoid, renal cell, gastric, lung, and melanoma. Clinical outcomes of interest included survival, percentage of patients receiving surgery and/or chemotherapy, total parenteral nutrition (TPN), insertion of venting gastrostomy tube, disposition, and rates of readmission to hospital.

Results: Median survival was 80 days and three patients were alive at the time of study closure. At our center, 34% of patients underwent surgical intervention, 37% received at least one dose of post-MBO chemotherapy, and 43% received TPN. There was a cohort of patients (17%) who were alive at one year.

Conclusion: Interventions such as chemotherapy and TPN may be appropriate in a carefully selected subgroup of patients. A collaborative approach is required for the optimal clinical management and palliation of MBO.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / mortality
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome