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Spontaneous Bowel Torsion

Patient Information

3 Years
Female, Spayed


Mesenteric root lymphadenopathy was noted yet the lymph nodes were uniform and maintained contour and structure most consistent with lymphadenitis.


Spontaneous Bowel Torsion On Sonogram. Sonogram performed by Robyn Roberts RDMS of Mettasound Imaging, Austin, Texas, USA. (
Case managed at Bryckerwood Veterinary Hospital, Austin, Texas, USA.

Sonogram: (Abdomen): Kira

History: A 3-year-old FS Yellow Labrador had been hit by a car one week prior. The patient sustained pulmonary contusions and was stabilized and discharged. Four days after discharge the patient started intermittent vomiting, diarrhea and inappetance. The patient possibly ate chicken bones around this time frame. The patient was given cerenia for the vomiting. The patient became listless, demonstrated further anorexia and tarry diarrhea. Physical exam revealed a very painful abdomen, capillary refill time of 2 seconds. Bloodwork revealed moderate elevation in ALT, mild decrease in albumin, and no other abnormalities.

Clinical Differential Diagnosis

(Remo Lobetti PhD, DECVIM): Upper GIT obstruction - foreign body Focal gastric/duodenal necrosis secondary to trauma Gastric ulceration Pancreatitis Focal peritonitis

Image Interpretation

Images 1, 2: Abdomen: Thorax: no evidence of the historical pulmonary contusion or other evidence of traumatic thoracic lesions. Stomach: mild gas and fluid-filled. No foreign body noted. Small intestines: Mostly clumped caudally in the mid-caudal abdomen. Luminal dimensions of this subset are within normal limits. A second population is suspected in the mid-cranial abdomen on the lateral and ventral-dorsal projections. This subset of intestines have ill-defined serosal margins and measurements are not possible. On the lateral projection one of the loops has a crescent-shaped luminal gas bubble. The large intestines are uniformly empty, except the terminal descending colon which has faintly mineral-opaque contents. The exact location of the cecum and the relationship o with the aforementioned small intestinal loops can not be determined. No evidence of free peritoneal air or significant free fluid noted. Diagnostic Interpretation: Possible segmental small intestinal dilation; mechanical obstruction (causes include lucent foreign body, intussusception, necrosis, neoplasia) No distinct gastrointestinal foreign object noted. No evidence of traumatic thoracic changes or aspiration pneumonia Testing Considerations: Abdominal ultrasound and complete thoracic radiographs Alternatively, pneumocolonography or upper GI series.

Sonographic Differential Diagnosis

(Lindquist DMV, DABVP): Focal bowel dysfunction and obstructive pattern owing to spontaneous necrosis, torsion, inflammatory or neoplastic disease. Associated mesenteric lymphadenopathy likely reactive. Potential for non-visible foreign body.


Exploratory surgery was performed. Bowel torsion was found in the region of the bowel in question noted on the sonogram. Then surgeon was able to untwist the bowel without resection and restore normal position.


The patient recovered uneventfully without further problems.


More information regarding bowel obstructions and sonographic criteria may be found here in our abstract on this subject from ECVIM 2009, Porto, Portugal on our resources page. Special thanks and congratulations to Dr. Donna Henry and Dr. Gregory Biehle at Bryckerwood Veterinary Hospital, Austin, Tx, USA for the medical and surgical management of this case


The upper gastrointestinal tract was normal as was most of the small bowel. However, dilated portion of small bowel was noted caudal to the right kidney.
The upper gastrointestinal tract was normal as was most of the small bowel. However, dilated portion of small bowel was noted caudal to the right kidney.
A small intestinal obstructive pattern was present given the dilated small bowel concurrently present with empty small bowel (entering in view at 10 o’clock in this image). The dilated small bowel was not peristaltic however suggestive for bowel exhaustion or mechanical ileus.