Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus & ISI's SCI  
Users online: 12188  
Home | Subscribe | Feedback | Login 
About Latest Articles Back-Issues Articlesmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Etcetera Contact
 :: Next article
 :: Previous article 
 :: Table of Contents
 ::  Similar in PUBMED
 ::  Search Pubmed for
 ::  Search in Google Scholar for
 ::  [PDF Not available] *
 ::  Citation Manager
 ::  Access Statistics
 ::  Reader Comments
 ::  Email Alert *
 ::  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free) 

  IN THIS Article
 ::  Abstract
 ::  Introduction
 ::  Material and Methods
 ::  Observations
 ::  Discussion
 ::  References
 ::  Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded0    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


Year : 1978  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 117-120

Volvulus obstruction of the small and large bowels

Department of Surgery, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh-160 012, India

Correspondence Address:
J D Wig
Department of Surgery, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh-160 012
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 722605

Rights and PermissionsRights and Permissions

 :: Abstract 

77 cases of intestinal volvulus seen during the last 6 years have been analysed; majority belong to 20-40 years age group. More than 50% presented after 72 hours of onset of symptoms. Small bowel was the site of volvulus in 65% of cases, transverse colon in 2.6% and sigmoid in 23.4%. 32.5% cases had strangulation obstruc­tion. Volvulus was of primary idiopathic variety in 84.5% of cases. Resection was required in 52%. The overall mortality was 10.5% in the series.

How to cite this article:
Wig J D, Bose S M, Kaushik S P. Volvulus obstruction of the small and large bowels. J Postgrad Med 1978;24:117-20

How to cite this URL:
Wig J D, Bose S M, Kaushik S P. Volvulus obstruction of the small and large bowels. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 1978 [cited 2023 Sep 29];24:117-20. Available from:

 :: Introduction Top

Volvulus is defined as a twisting of a loop around its own axis. Those organs which are suspended from a narrow base and have a long mesentery most frequen­tly undergo volvulus. Next to small intestine, sigmoid colon is the most fre­quently involved. [8],[14] Although volvulus is comparatively rare in Britain, Western Europe and America, it is a common cause of intestinal obstruction in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, India and Africa. [8],[13]

 :: Material and Methods Top

The present paper is a critical analysis of our experience in the management of all cases of volvulus obstruction treated in our Unit since 1968 through 1974. 300 cases of intestinal obstruction were admit­ted for treatment during the period under review. 77 of these (26%) were caused by volvulus of small and large bowel.

 :: Observations Top

Age and Sex: There were 63 males and 14 females. The youngest patient was 15 years old and the oldest was 80 years in age. Majority of cases (41.5%) belonged to 20-40 years age group.

Presenting Signs and Symptoms

Clinical features of acute intestinal ob­struction viz. central abdominal pain, vomiting, and distention of abdomen were invariably present (98%). Visible peris­talsis was seen in 48%. Abdominal ten­derness suggestive of internal strangula­tion was seen in 33%. 30% of cases pre­sented with toxemia.

Duration of Symptoms

The duration of symptoms ranged from 6 hours to 10 days. 517c of the patients presented after 72 hours of onset of symp­toms and only 14% presented in the first 12 hours.


Emergency laparotomy was performed after adequate hydration and attempts at correction of electrolytes to near normal Nasogastric suction was instituted in all the cases. Gangrenous bowel was present in 32.5% of cases. Various operative pro­cedures carried out have been shown in [Table 1]. In two cases, volvulus of trans­verse colon was seen. A subtotal colec­tomy was performed in one and untwist­ing of volvulus was done in another case. In three patients of sigmoid volvulus, sig­moid colon was anastomosed to the distal third of the transverse colon to avoid re­currence. In 34 cases (43.6%), detorsior and fixation was carried out. Resection was performed in 40 cases.

Site of Volvulus

Small bowel was affected in 50 cases (65%). In the remaining 27 cases (36%), sigmoid colon was the site of volvulus in 18 and transverse colon in 2 cases. Right colon was affected in 7 cases.


In 65 cases (84.5;%), there was no ob­vious cause for volvulus obstruction (Idio­pathic). Only in 12 instances (15.5%) the volvulus was secondary. One case of secondary volvulus was due to gall stone, one-due to Meckel's diverticulum and 10 cases had volvulus due to bands and adhe­sions.

Post-operative Complications

Wound infection was the commonest complication in 8 cases (10.4%). Burst abdomen was seen in 4 cases. Faecal fis­tula occurred in 2 cases and septicemia was observed in 3 cases. Bronchopneu­monia occurred in 4 cases while recur­rence has only been seen in one patient.

The overall mortality was 10.5% (8 cases).

 :: Discussion Top

77 cases of volvulus obstruction have been reviewed. The incidence of volvulus has been found to be 26 of all cases of intestinal obstruction treated by us. The reported incidence in the literature varies from 3-65%. [5],[7],[8]

The factors leading to a spontaneous primary rotation of bowel are complex but a long mesentery with short attachment and sudden distention of an intestinal loop appears to be a pre-requisite for volvulus. In Indian patients sudden overloading of the intestine by a large quantity of food may precipitate irregular violent persis­talsis and thus lead to volvulus. [2],[7] The most frequent cause of secondary volvulus has been reported as adhesions . [2],[7] In our own cases, 13% were due to adhesions. One case of volvulus was caused by a gall stone in the small bowel, an extremely infrequent complication, although such a situation has been antici­pated by Deckoff. [6]

Volvulus of the small intestine accounts for approximately one third of the cases observed [Table 2]; strangulation obs­truction tends to occur more frequently and progresses rapidly to gangrene as the twisting of the mesentery tends to be very tight leading to early vascular impair­ment.

Transverse colon volvulus accounts for less than 1% of all the large bowel ob­structions and less than 4% of all report­ed cases of colonic torsions. [9] Mortality in such cases has been observed to be higher than either sigmoid or caecal volvulus.. Two cases of transverse colon volvulus were seen in our series. The etiological factor in both of these cases was an elon­gated mesentery with redundant colon. There had been no mortality in these cases.

Sigmoid colon has been reported vari­ously as the most common site of colonic volvulus [Table 2]. While conservative management, sigmoidoscopy and passage of a rectal tube to bypass the twist has been recommended, [4] many observers have not favoured this type of management. The present thinking is more in favour of emergency surgery and primary resection anastomosis. [11],[12] Because of high rate of recurrence, sigmoidopexy has also not been advocated as a routine. The tech­nique of anastomosis of the sigmoid colon to transverse colon as reported by Agar­wal and Misral has yet to be evaluated further.

Mortality in cases of intestinal volvulus has ranged from 2.5-70% [2],[7],[8] In our cases, mortality was This high mortality had partly been due to late arrival of patients, more than 50% pre­senting after 72 hours of onset of symp­toms.

 :: References Top

1.Agarwal, R. L. and Misra, M. K.: Volvulus of sigmoid colon. Int. Surg., 55: 49-56, 1971.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Bhansali, S. K., Patel, S. D. and Desai, V. K.: Volvulus- .a clinical study of 47 cases. J. Postgrad. Med., 16: 120-127, 1970.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Brooks, V E. H. and Butler, A.: Acute in­testinal obstructicn in Jamaica. Surg. Gynec. & Ohst. 122: 261-268, 1966.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Bruusgaard, C.: Volvulus of sigmoid colon and its treatment. Surgery. 22: 466-478, 1947.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Cole, G. J.: A review of intestinal obstruction in Ibadan. Gut. 6: 151-162, 1965.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Deckcff, S. L.: Gall-stone ileus-Report of 12 cases. Ann. Surg., 142: 52-65, 1955.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Gulati, S. M., Grover, N. K., Tagore, N. K. and Taneja, O. P.: Volvulus of small intestine in India. Amer. J. Surg., 126: 661-684, 1973.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Inberg, M. V,, Havia, T., Davidson, L. and Salo, M.: Acute intestinal volvulus. Scand. J. Gastroenterol., 7: 209-214, 1973.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Kerry, R. L. and Ransom, H, K.: Volvulus of colon. Arch. Surg., 99: 215-222, 1969.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Letwin, E., Costcponlos, L.. B. and MacKenzie, W. C.: Volvulus of the small and large intestines-diagnosis and management. Canad. J. Surg., 8: 49-55, 1965.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Sinha, R. S.,: A clinical appraisal of volvulus of pelvic colon with special re­ference to aetiology and treatment. Brit. J. Surg., 56: 838-840, 1969.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Sutcliff, M. M. L.: Volvulus of sigmoid colon. Brit. J. Surg., 55: 903-910, 1968.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Vaez-Zedah, M. V., Dutz, W. and Nowraaz Zedam, M.: Volvulus of small in­testine in adults-a study of predisposing factors. Ann. Surg., 169: 265-271, 1963.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Wapnick, S.: Treatment of intestinal volvulus. Ann. Roy. Coll. Surg. Eng., 53: 57-61, 1973.  Back to cited text no. 14    


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article
Online since 12th February '04
© 2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow