Background: Both surgical and nonsurgical options are available to treat bowel obstruction in patients with metastatic cancer. The goal is straightforward: to restore bowel patency and palliate the symptoms of obstruction. Yet the most appropriate management is often a challenging decision. Aim of the Study: We sought to review our experience in managing patients with metastatic cancer and bowel obstruction. Methods: A retrospective review was performed to identify all patients admitted at University of Wisconsin Hospital between 1993 and 2000 with the diagnoses of both bowel obstruction and metastatic cancer. Demographic data, type of management, postoperative complications, and outcome were analyzed. Results: A total of 114 patients with primarily colorectal or gynecologic malignancies were identified. Patients' first bowel obstructions were managed in one of two ways: (1) definitive surgical intervention (n = 47), or (2) conservative management (n = 67). The median overall survival was 3 mo for the entire study group. There was no significant difference in overall or obstruction-free survival based on management, presence of recurrent bowel obstruction, or type of primary cancer. The only factor that was significant in predicting poor overall survival included a disease-free interval of less than 1 yr (time of diagnosis of primary cancer to time of bowel obstruction, p = 0.002). Conclusions: Bowel obstruction in patients with metastatic cancer is a terminal event, with a 3-mo median survival. Because there is no difference in overall or obstruction-free survival based on management, the treatment for palliation of bowel obstruction in patients with metastatic cancer should be individualized.
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