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Recurrent sigmoid volvulus - early resection may obviate later emergency surgery and reduce morbidity and mortality.INTRODUCTION: Acute sigmoid volvulus is a well recognised cause of acute large bowel obstruction. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We reviewed our unit's experience with non-operative and operative management of this condition. A total of 27 patients were treated for acute sigmoid volvulus between 1996 and 2006. In total, there were 62 separate hospital admissions. RESULTS: Eleven patients were managed with colonoscopic decompression alone. The overall mortality rate for non-operative management was 36.4% (4 of 11 patients). Fifteen patients had operative management (five semi-elective following decompression, 10 emergency). There was no mortality in the semi-elective cohort and one in the emergency surgery group. The overall mortality for surgery was 6% (1 of 15). Five of the seven patients managed with colonoscopic decompression alone who survived were subsequently re-admitted with sigmoid volvulus (a 71.4% recurrence rate). The six deaths in our overall series each occurred in patients with established gangrene of the bowel. With early surgical intervention before the onset of gangrene, however, good outcomes may be achieved, even in patients apparently unsuitable for elective surgery. Eight of the 15 operatively managed patients were considered to be ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) grade 4. There was no postoperative mortality in this group. CONCLUSIONS: Given the high rate of recurrence of sigmoid volvulus after initial successful non-operative management and the attendant risks of mortality from gangrenous bowel developing with a subsequent volvulus, it is our contention that all patients should be considered for definitive surgery after initial colonoscopic decompression, irrespective of the ASA score.