Contributions of history-taking, physical examination, and computer assistance to diagnosis of acute small-bowel obstruction. A prospective study of 1333 patients with acute abdominal pain

Scand J Gastroenterol. 1994 Aug;29(8):715-21. doi: 10.3109/00365529409092499.


Background: The accuracy of clinical diagnosis of acute small-bowel studied in connection with the survey of acute abdominal pain by the Research Committee of the World Organization of Gastroenterology (OMGE). Criteria for inclusion and the diagnostic criteria of this prospective study were those set out by the OMGE Research Committee.

Methods: The clinical findings in each patient were recorded in detail on a pre-defined structured data collection sheet, and the collected data were compared with the final diagnosis of patients.

Results: The most efficient symptoms in the diagnosis of acute small-bowel obstruction were previous abdominal surgery (relative risk (RR) = 12.1) and type of pain (colic/intermittent versus steady) (RR = 2.4). The most efficient clinical tests were abdominal distension (yes versus no) (RR = 13.1) and bowel sounds (abnormal versus normal) (RR = 9.0). The sensitivity of the clinical decision was 0.75, with a specificity of 0.99 and an efficiency of 0.98. The computer-based diagnostic score reached a sensitivity of 0.87 with a specificity of 0.95 and an efficiency of 0.95.

Conclusions: Acute abdominal pain with distension, abnormal bowel sounds, and previous abdominal surgery are indicative of a small-bowel obstruction. A computer-based diagnostic score increases the sensitivity and usefulness index of the diagnosis of acute small-bowel obstruction in comparison with clinical decision alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen, Acute / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / complications
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnosis*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Physical Examination
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity