Treating Small Bowel Obstruction with a Manual Physical Therapy: A Prospective Efficacy Study

Small bowel obstructions (SBOs) caused by adhesions are a common, often life-threatening postsurgical complication with few treatment options available for patients. This study examines the efficacy of a manual physical therapy treatment regimen on the pain and quality of life of subjects with a history of bowel obstructions due to adhesions in a prospective, controlled survey based study. Changes in six domains of quality of life were measured via ratings reported before and after treatment using the validated Small Bowel Obstruction Questionnaire (SBO-Q). Improvements in the domains for pain (p = 0.0087), overall quality of life (p = 0.0016), and pain severity (p = 0.0006) were significant when average scores before treatment were compared with scores after treatment. The gastrointestinal symptoms (p = 0.0258) domain was marginally significant. There was no statistically significant improvement identified in the diet or medication domains in the SBO-Q for this population. Significant improvements in range of motion in the trunk (p ≤ 0.001), often limited by adhesions, were also observed for all measures. This study demonstrates in a small number of subjects that this manual physical therapy protocol is an effective treatment option for patients with adhesive small bowel obstructions as measured by subject reported symptoms and quality of life.

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