Malignant Bowel Obstruction Management Over Time: Are We Doing Anything New? A Current Narrative Review

Ann Surg Oncol. 2022 Mar;29(3):1995-2005. doi: 10.1245/s10434-021-10922-1. Epub 2021 Oct 18.


Introduction: Malignant bowel obstruction from peritoneal carcinomatosis affects a significant proportion of luminal gastrointestinal and ovarian oncology patients, and portends poor long-term survival. The management approach for these patients includes a range of medical therapies and surgical options; however, how to select an optimal treatment strategy remains enigmatic. The goal of this narrative review was to summarize the latest evidence around multimodal malignant bowel obstruction treatment and to establish if and where progress has been made.

Methods: A targeted literature search examining articles focused on the management of malignant bowel obstruction from peritoneal carcinomatosis was performed. Following data extraction, a narrative review approach was selected to describe evidence and guidelines for surgical prognostic factors, imaging, tube decompression, medical management, nutrition, and quality of life.

Results: Outcomes in the literature to date are summarized for various malignant bowel obstruction treatment strategies, including surgical and non-surgical approaches, as well as a discussion of the role of total parenteral nutrition and chemotherapy in holistic malignant bowel obstruction management.

Conclusion: There has been little change in survival outcomes in malignant bowel obstruction in over more than a decade and there remains a paucity of high-level evidence to direct treatment decision making. Healthcare providers treating patients with malignant bowel obstruction should work to establish consensus guidelines, where feasible, to support medical providers in ensuring compassionate care during this often terminal event for this unique patient group.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction* / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction* / therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms*
  • Quality of Life