Bowel obstruction other diagnostic studies

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hadeel Maksoud M.D.[2]


Other diagnostic studies for bowel obstruction include contrast studies, which demonstrate dilated proximal bowel loops, point of transition, and complete obstruction. Contrast enema is useful in those who have had a previous surgical reconstruction of the bowel. Enteroclysis is a useful study in those with chronic or recurrent bowel obstruction.

Other Diagnostic Studies

Contrast studies may be helpful in the diagnosis of bowel obstruction. Findings suggestive of bowel obstruction include:[1][2][3]

  • Proximal dilated bowel loop
  • Distal obstruction
    • Usually void of contrast media if a complete obstruction
  • Point of transition
    • Can indicate the position of blockage and distinguish between proximal and distal segment of the bowel

Limitations of contrast studies

  • Etiology cannot be determined
  • Contraindicated in strangulated bowel loops
  • May miss transition point as contrast may become diluted and therefore, visualization of bowel may be lost
  • Cannot identify closed loop obstruction or ischemia

Further studies


  1. Mullan CP, Siewert B, Eisenberg RL (2012). "Small bowel obstruction". AJR Am J Roentgenol. 198 (2): W105–17. doi:10.2214/AJR.10.4998. PMID 22268199.
  2. Makanjuola D (1998). "Computed tomography compared with small bowel enema in clinically equivocal intestinal obstruction". Clin Radiol. 53 (3): 203–8. PMID 9528871.
  3. Shrake PD, Rex DK, Lappas JC, Maglinte DD (1991). "Radiographic evaluation of suspected small bowel obstruction". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 86 (2): 175–8. PMID 1992631.

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