The Accuracy of Point-of-Care Ultrasound in Detecting Small Bowel Obstruction in Emergency Department

Emerg Med Int. 2018 Apr 4;2018:3684081. doi: 10.1155/2018/3684081. eCollection 2018.


Radiological imaging plays an essential role in the evaluation of a patient with suspected small bowel obstruction (SBO). In a few studies, point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has been utilized as a primary imaging modality in patients with suspected SBO. POCUS has been shown to be an accurate tool in the diagnosis of SBO with multiple research studies noting a consistent high sensitivity with a range of 94-100% and specificity of 81-100%. Specific sonographic findings that increase the likelihood of SBO include dilatation of small bowel loops > 25 mm, altered intestinal peristalsis, increased thickness of the bowel wall, and intraperitoneal fluid accumulation. Studies also reported that emergency physicians could apply this technique with limited and short-term ultrasound training. In this article, we aim to review the sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound examinations performed by emergency physicians in patients with suspected SBO.

Publication types

  • Review