The ratio between maximal small intestinal (SI) diameter and the height of the body of the fifth lumbar vertebra (L5) in radiographs has been reported as a diagnostic test in dogs with suspected intestinal obstruction. In order to assess the effect of the SI/L5 ratio on the accuracy of radiographic diagnosis of intestinal obstruction, lateral abdominal radiographs of 37 dogs with small intestinal obstruction and 48 nonobstructed dogs were mixed and examined independently by six observers who were unaware of the final diagnosis and who represented a range of experience. Observers first examined radiographs subjectively and stated the likelihood of obstruction (definitely not, probably not, equivocal, probably, definitely). Observers subsequently reexamined the radiographs, determined the SI/L5 ratio, and again stated the likelihood of obstruction. The most frequent cause of obstruction was foreign body (29/37, 78%). Dogs with SI obstruction had a significantly larger median SI/L5 ratio than nonobstructed dogs (P = 0.0002). Using an SI/L5 ratio of 1.7 for diagnosis of intestinal obstruction, sensitivity and specificity were 66%. Use of the SI/L5 ratio was not associated with increased accuracy of diagnosis for any observer, regardless of experience, hence this test may have no diagnostic impact.
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