Background. Orally administered gastrografin has been used for early resolution of postoperative small bowel obstruction (POSBO) and to reduce the need for surgery in various studies. However the studies have reported conflicting results as patients with complete obstruction and equivocal diagnosis of bowel strangulation were also included. Patients and methods. We carried out a prospective study to evaluate the efficacy of gastrografin in patients with partial adhesive small bowel obstruction. Patients with suspected strangulation, complete obstruction, obstructed hernia, bowel malignancy, and radiation enteritis were excluded. Sixty-two patients with partial adhesive small bowel obstruction were given an initial trial of conservative management of 48 h. Thirty-eight patients improved within 48 h and the other 24 were given 100 ml of undiluted gastrografin through the nasogastric tube. In 22 patients the contrast reached the colon within 24 h. In the remaining two patients the contrast failed to reach the colon and these underwent surgery. Results. The use of gastrografin avoided surgical intervention in 91.3% (22 of 24) patients who failed conservative management of POSBO. Gastrografin also decreased the overall requirement for surgical management of POSBO from the reported rate of 25 to 30% to 3.2% (2 of 62). Conclusion. Use of gastrografin in patients with partial POSBO helps in resolution of symptoms and avoids the need for surgical management in the majority of patients. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.