Friday, April 29, 2011
Large Bowel Obstruction
It cannot be emphasized enough: suspicion of a large bowel obstruction mandates an early surgical evaluation---- even if you think it's just a little old lady with another episode of constipation. LBO represents a potential surgical emergency. These patients ought not to be sitting on regular nursing floors for days and days. Within hours of arrival, a surgeon needs to be on the case. The consequences of delay can be catastrophic. Patients who perforate and dump liters of feces into their own abdominal cavities don't do so well.
Here's what to look for:
1) Colonic dilatation, especially cecal, greater than 6-8 cm.
2) Severe distention with tympany
3) PAIN. This is a sign of impending vascular compromise.
4) Don't be fooled by a report of "patient had some diarrhea". In a high grade colonic obstruction, sometimes passage of liquid fecal matter is the only stuff that gets through. Never assume that this suggests complete resolution of the blockage.
Here's what you do:
2)Bowel rest, possible NG tube
3)Do not give oral motility or bowel cleansing agents
Here's what we will do:
1)Review films and examine patient. Pain on exam sets off our alarm systems.
2) Obtain barium enema study vs flexible sigmoidoscopy (usually in concert with our GI colleagues)
The type of operation can vary from case to case. Left sided obstructions usually result in a colostomy (unless you have endoscopic stenting specialists in your hospital). Right sided blockages can be addressed in a single stage without diverting ostomies. Sometimes all you can do is decompress the patient with a loop colostomy or even a cecostomy. But you can't let these patients with 10 cm cecums linger on the floor. The Law of LaPlace is an immutable physical reality.