Intestinal Obstructions

A medical condition of the intestine when the pathway of the food or stool is blocked partially or completely may be referred to as an Intestinal Obstruction.  Intestinal obstructions may occur in both the small and large intestine. These obstructions may be mechanical in nature. For example, the obstructions may be due to a tumor, a scar tissue, or may be because of the narrowing of the intestinal tract. Small bowel obstructions may occur due to the following reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Hernias
  • Adhesions
  • Intussusceptions
  • Crohn’s Disease

The cause behind large bowel obstructions may be related many other conditions, such as the following.   

  • Constipation
  • Fecal impaction
  • Intestinal atresia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Intestinal Obstruction Symptoms

The symptoms that accompany intestinal obstructions are quite distinct and painful including:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas.
  • Constipation
  • Bloating and tenderness of the abdomen.
  • Severe abdominal cramps.
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling around the abdomen.
  • Rapid and ragged breathing may accompany abdominal cramping.

It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention as soon as the symptoms appear. This is because both types of bowel obstructions (large and small intestine) may become severe in only a matter of hours. However, the large bowel obstructions may be more likely to initiate with symptoms at a mild rate and become severe over time. In either case, professional medical assistance is vital.  

Your Physician Consultation

The first step of the diagnosis is usually asking questions about your history of digestive problems. Q and A for Your Doctor The next step is to feel or examine the abdomen and the rectum. The following tests may be the next calls to action.

 X-ray images to show the nature of the blockage inside the intestine.

Blood tests to monitor the loss of fluids and electrolytes, if symptoms of vomiting are present.

CT scans offer detailed stomach imaging for a clearer picture to identify the extent of the blockage.

Colonoscope may be inserted into the bowels to: 1) obtain images of the obstruction 2) the insertion of a colonoscope may untwist the intestine and relieve the obstruction. This is for cases of Volvulus.

Intestinal Obstruction Treatment

Intestinal obstruction is a serious condition that should always be treated at a hospital under professional medical care.

  • Usually fluids and medication are administered intravenously.
  • Nasogastric tubes may be inserted through the nose to relieve gases or any fluids leaving the bowels. This helps in lowering the pressure inside the stomach.

Usually, partial obstructions “un-knot” on their own with time, while complete obstructions may be treated differently. Complete obstructions are treated surgically because the blood supply to the affected area is usually blocked and  part of the intestine is cut off to relieve the obstruction. Colostomy or ileostomy is performed after the surgery. Colostomy Repair may be performed two months or more after surgery for normal bowel movements.  

The Outcome for Intestinal Obstruction

While a partial blockage usually goes away with time, the outcome of surgery for a complete obstruction depends upon the nature of the obstruction, cause of the obstruction, the age of the individual and overall health of the individual. Intestinal obstructions generally have a good prognosis.  The degree of success for cancerous tumors, generally depend upon the location of the cancer, the stage of the cancer, the aggressiveness of the cancer and if or how much it has spread.

Next Visit, Q and A for Your Doctor

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition.