Surgical management of bowel obstruction in gynaecological malignancies

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2011 Mar;5(1):55-9. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e3283436d1b.


Purpose of review: Bowel obstruction in gynaecological malignancies continues to present clinical challenges and a multidisciplinary approach to discuss management is crucial. Surgery, usually with palliative intent, is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. There is an absence of level 1 evidence and national guidelines, and only limited quality-of-life data.

Recent findings: Acute bowel obstruction in gynaecological cancer patients is rare and surgery is associated with a higher morbidity and mortality rate. Less commonly, emergency bowel obstruction cases will have had radiotherapy or recent chemotherapy, which also increases surgical morbidity and mortality. However, most often, bowel obstruction in irradiated gynaecological cancer patients is not due to cancer. Ovarian cancer is the most common malignancy. Caution is needed in those EOC patients with ascites, short treatment-free interval, acute abdomen and chemoresistance. Comorbidities are frequent. The decision for surgery should be made on an individual basis. Palliative care input is important early in patient management as for most patients the surgical goal is palliation and not cure. There is still a paucity of published data on quality-of-life assessments.

Summary: There is a need to identify those patients who may benefit from palliative surgical intervention and those who will not. Ideally, agreed national guidelines should be produced and regularly reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / complications*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery*
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life