The 16 golden hours for conservative treatment in children with postoperative small bowel obstruction

Elad Feigin*, Dragan Kravarusic, Ittai Goldrat, Ran Steinberg, Elena Dlugy, Arthur Baazov, Michael Zer, Enrique Freud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Conservative treatment of postoperative small bowel obstruction in children is widely accepted, provided that there are no clinical signs of bowel strangulation. However, the length of time surgery can be safely deferred remains unclear. Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the time limit for observant management of postoperative small bowel obstruction. Methods: The medical records of 128 children with 174 episodes of postoperative small bowel obstruction were reviewed. Results: Spontaneous resolution occurred in 63% of cases, 85% within 48 hours of admission. Bowel compromise was noted in 31% of the operated cases, and about half of them underwent bowel resection, accounting for 6% of all admissions. None of the cases treated surgically within 16 hours of admission was associated with bowel strangulation or need for resection. Conclusions: In children presenting with postoperative small bowel obstruction, prolonging observant treatment for more than 48 hours yields only a small benefit in terms of spontaneous resolution. Bowel strangulation can occur within 16 hours of admission. On the basis of these findings, we suggest raising the index of suspicion for compromised bowel after 16 hours and making the decision for surgery at around 48 hours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-968
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Bowel compromise
  • Observation
  • Postoperative small bowel obstruction
  • Spontaneous resolution


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