Diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound for small bowel obstruction: A systematic review and meta-analysis

You Cheng Lin, Yi Chung Yu, Yu Ting Huang, Yun Yu Wu, Ting Cheng Wang, Wen Cheng Huang, Meng Duo Yang, Yuan Pin Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Accurate diagnosis of small bowel obstruction (SBO) remains challenging. The evidence of the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound varies among studies, with reporting sensitivity ranging from 82 % to 100 % and specificity ranging from 54 % to 100 %. The aim of our study is to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the accuracy of ultrasound for diagnosing SBO. Method: The PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Scopus databases were searched from database inception to March 2020. Randomized controlled trials, quasi randomized studies, and prospective or retrospective cohort studies that evaluated the diagnostic performance of ultrasound for the diagnosis of bowel obstruction in adult patients (age ≥ 16 years) were eligible. The QUADAS-2 tool was used to assess the quality of the included studies. The pooled sensitivities, specificities were analyzed using a bivariate random-effects model. (PROSPERO ID: CRD42020170010). Results: Fifteen studies, with most rating as a moderate risk of bias, met the inclusion criteria. The pooled sensitivity and specificity were 92 % (95 % CI: 89%–95%) and 93 % (95 % CI: 85%–97%), respectively. Subgroup analysis revealed no significant differences in sensitivity when ultrasound was performed on different continents, in different settings, and under different reference standards. However, the specificity was significantly lower when ultrasound was performed in the North America, in the emergency department, and when computed tomography was used as the only reference standard. Conclusions: Overall, ultrasound is a highly sensitive and specific tool for the diagnosis of SBO. Using ultrasound to rule in patients with SBO should be used with caution, as variations in the specificity were observed in different study setting, operators from different continents and reference standards used.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109565
JournalEuropean Journal of Radiology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Ultrasonics
  • Ultrasonography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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