As a cause of small intestine occlusion, volvulus is often a consequence of a band or adhesions. Except in infants, it is rarely the primary cause of symptomatology. Between January 1976 and December 1992, 13 patients (7 women and 6 men, mean age of 56.8 years) were admitted in our department for an acute abdomen due to a spontaneous primary volvulus of the small bowel. Clinical examination and laboratory tests did not help in preoperative diagnosis. All patients underwent an explorative laparotomy. Six patients had had prior abdominal surgery but none of them presented adhesion or band. In 8 patients (62%), detorsion was sufficient. Resection of a segment of small bowel was necessary in 4 patients. Gangrenous of the entire bowel was observed in one patient who rapidly died. Two patients presented minor complications. One patient with Down syndrome died of bronchoaspiration. One patient has been reoperated on one year later for recurrence of the volvulus, and underwent a Noble procedure. We conclude that volvulus of the small bowel is a rare cause of acute abdomen that must be remembered. Early surgery is mandatory to reduce the risk of gangrene, which is known to double the mortality. Laparoscopy will be helpful in early diagnosis and therapy.