Nasogastric decompression not associated with a reduction in surgery or bowel ischemia for acute small bowel obstruction

Am J Emerg Med. 2017 Dec;35(12):1919-1921. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2017.08.029. Epub 2017 Aug 15.


Objectives: Small bowel obstructions (SBOs) occur 300,000 times annually leading to $1.3 billion in cost. Approximately 20% of patients require a laparotomy to manage the obstruction and either prevent or treat intestinal ischemia. Early management may play a role in reducing these complications. Nasogastric decompression is commonly used for early management. Our primary objective was to determine if NGD was associated with lower rates of surgery, bowel ischemia or length of stay.

Methods: We retrospectively enrolled 181 ED patients with SBO from 9/2013 to 9/2015 in order to determine if nasogastric decompression was associated with a reduction in rates of surgery, bowel ischemia or hospital length of stay.

Results: Our subject population was 46% female, median age of 60.27% of patients received surgery. Nasogastric decompression was used in 51% of patients. There was no association with a reduction in rates of surgery (p=0.20) or bowel resection (p=0.41) with patients receiving Nasogastric decompression, and no difference in baseline characteristics. Nasogastric decompression was associated with a two-day increase in hospital length of stay. Factors that were significantly associated with surgical exploration of SBO were: female (OR 2.32 (95% CI: 1.01-5.31)) and "definite SBO" on CT (OR 3.29 (95% CI: 1.18-9.20)). Abnormal vital signs, obstipation, and lab values were not predictors of surgery.

Conclusion: Nasogastric decompression is not associated with a reduction in need for surgery or bowel resection, but is associated with a 2-day increase in median LOS. Women were more likely to receive surgery than men.

Keywords: Emergency department; Nasogastric decompression; Small bowel obstruction; Surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decompression, Surgical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / surgery*
  • Intestine, Small / pathology*
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal*
  • Ischemia / surgery*
  • Laparotomy*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult