Small Bowel Obstruction: When Is X-Ray Enough?

  • Lauren M. Westafer


Abdominal x-rays are frequently ordered in patients with suspected small bowel obstruction (SBO). However, this practice is discouraged by the American College of Radiology due to poor sensitivity. Abdominal x-rays have insufficient sensitivity (75%) and specificity (66%) to rule in or rule out a diagnosis of SBO. Further, x-rays lack reliable information on the etiology and level of obstruction, almost always warranting further imaging. In most cases, alternative diagnostic modalities such as ultrasound and computed tomography should be used to diagnose SBO.


Small bowel obstruction Emergency radiology Abdominal radiographs 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren M. Westafer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Emergency Medicine, Baystate Medical Center/UMMSSpringfieldUSA

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