The lifetime incidence of SBO varies between 0.1% and 5% in patients who have not undergone previous surgery, yet may rise to over 60% in patients who have undergone previous surgery.[1][2][3] In patients with Crohn's disease, the incidence may be upwards of 25%. 

SBO accounts for 12% to 16% of emergency surgery admissions and 20% of emergency laparotomies in the UK (some 7000 operations per year).[4]

SBO is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and it can be fatal in untreated patients due to its progression to intestinal necrosis, perforation, sepsis, and multi-organ failure.

Risk factors

Can lead to intra-abdominal adhesions that may cause obstruction. Open abdominal surgery carries a greater risk of intra-abdominal adhesion-related SBO compared with laparoscopic surgery.[5][6][7]

Can lead to midgut volvulus, resulting in the loss of the midgut, necrosis, and death.

Can lead to the formation of an inflammatory phlegmon that may obstruct the intestine.

Inguinal, ventral incisional, umbilical, and parastomal hernias can lead to incarceration and intestinal obstruction.

Can lead to obstruction of the intestine due to the formation of an inflammatory phlegmon/abscess.

Can lead to intestinal blockage as disease progresses, either from primary tumour or from metastases.

Leads to intestinal obstruction as the intestine is 'pinched off' during the process of intussusception.

Always causes obstruction as the twisted intestine leads to the total loss of intestinal luminal patency.

Important cause of intestinal obstruction in newborn infants; the failure of intestinal development leads to an interruption of luminal patency.

Ingested foreign bodies can cause a mass effect in the intestinal lumen and prevent the passage of intestinal contents.

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