Strategies for the management of small bowel obstructions have changed significantly over the years. Nonoperative medical management has become the mainstay of treatment of many small bowel obstructions. However, the key to the management of small bowel obstructions is identifying those patients who need surgical intervention. Identification of those at risk for bowel ischemia and bowel death is an art as much as it is a science. Using the current literature and the past knowledge regarding small bowel obstructions, the clinician must carefully identify the signs and symptoms that suggest the need for operative intervention. Classification of the obstruction, history and physical examination, imaging, response to decompression and resuscitation, and resolution or progression of symptoms are the key factors influencing the management of small bowel obstructions.

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