Original communication| Volume 139, ISSUE 3, P312-316, March 2006

Specific oral medications decrease the need for surgery in adhesive partial small-bowel obstruction


      Nothing by mouth (NPO) is the standard treatment for small-bowel obstruction. Whether oral medications should be prohibited during treatment of adhesive, partial small-bowel obstruction is unclear. The goal of this study was to determine whether a combination of specific oral medications in adhesive, partial small-bowel obstruction will decrease the need for operative intervention.


      Of 266 consecutive adult patients with partial small-bowel obstruction admitted at a tertiary medical center, 236 were randomized into 2 groups. Group I patients were treated with intravenous hydration, nasogastric tube decompression, and NPO. Group II patients were placed on intravenous hydration, nasogastric tube decompression, and oral fluids incorporating an oral laxative, a digestant, and a defoaming agent. We compared differences between the groups in (1) the number of patients having a successful nonoperative treatment, (2) complications, and (3) recurrence of symptoms.


      A total of 116 and 120 patients comprised groups I and II, respectively. The number of patients treated successfully by a nonoperative approach was less in group I than in group II (77% vs 90%, P < .01). The complications and recurrence rate for groups I and II did not differ (4% vs 5% and 5% vs 4%, respectively).


      The NPO status for patients with adhesive, partial small-bowel obstruction may not be necessary. This cocktail of oral medications can decrease the need for operative intervention in patients with presumed adhesive, partial small-bowel obstruction.
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