What's Your Diagnosis?

Small Bowel Obstruction in a Surgically Naïve Abdomen

Finding the cause of small bowel obstructions can lead to the discovery of important and treatable underlying disease.

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A 53-year-old male veteran with a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use presented with abdominal pain, emesis, and no bowel movements for 2 days. He had no history of surgical procedures, malignancies, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, traveling abroad, parasitic infections, tuberculosis exposure, or hospital admissions for abdominal pain. He reported experiencing no flushing, diarrhea, or cardiac symptoms. His medical history included hypertension, depression, and osteoarthritis. His vital signs were within normal limits.

A physical examination revealed a distended abdomen with mild tenderness. He had no inguinal or ventral hernias. He also had no abnormal skin lesions. A rectal examination did not reveal any masses or blood. His laboratory values were normal. X-ray and computed tomography (CT) scan revealed dilated loops of proximal small bowel, mild wall thickening in a segment of the midileum, and narrowing of the distal small bowel suggestive of a partial small bowel obstruction (Figure 1). A 1-cm nonspecific omental nodule also was seen on the CT scan, but no enlarged lymph nodes or mesenteric calcifications were seen. There was no thickening of the terminal ileum.

The patient underwent an exploratory laparotomy, which revealed no adhesions. In the midileum there was an area of thickened bowel with some nodularity associated with the thickness, but no discrete mass. In the mesentery there were multiple hard, white, calcified nodules, with the majority clustered near the thickened ileal segment. There also was a 1-cm hard, peritoneal mass on the anterior abdominal wall. The segment of thickened ileum, the adjacent mesentery, and the peritoneal nodule were resected.

Pathologic examination of the resected tissue showed immunohistochemical stains that were positive for CD79a, CD10, and BCL-2 and negative for CD23, CD5, and CD3. Nineteen mesenteric lymph nodes were negative for malignancy. The postoperative staging positron emission tomography (PET) scan did not reveal any fluorodeoxyglucose avid masses anywhere else, and bone marrow biopsy showed no infiltration.

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