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BMJ Case Rep. 2010; 2010: bcr0820092177.
Published online 2010 November 12. doi:  10.1136/bcr.08.2009.2177
PMCID: PMC3029525
Learning from errors

Concomitant intestinal obstruction: a misleading diagnostic pitfall


A 78-year-old man presented to the casualty department, complaining of recurrent and worsening constipation for the previous 2 months. This was associated with central, colicky abdominal pain and melena. In the last days, the symptoms worsened and the patient became partially obstructed, with nausea, vomiting and passing flatus but not stools for 72 h. The past medical history was unremarkable. The radiological findings of the plain abdominal film were consistent with mechanical small-bowel obstruction. CT scan revealed an intraluminal mass in the small bowel, which drew attention away from gross thickening of the caecal wall that was also present. A careful review of the images should not be omitted. One must be aware of a polymorphous appearance and the multiple causes of intestinal obstruction and avoid underestimating even the minor and less evident radiological findings.

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