St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Intestinal obstruction

    Paralytic ileus; Intestinal volvulus; Bowel obstruction; Ileus; Pseudo-obstruction - intestinal; Colonic ileus

    Intestinal obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the bowel that prevents the contents of the intestine frompassing through.

    Causes

    Obstruction of the bowel may due to:

    • A mechanical cause, which means something is in the way
    • Ileus, a condition in which the bowel doesn't work correctly but there is no structural problem

    Paralytic ileus, also called pseudo-obstruction, is one of the major causes of intestinal obstruction in infants and children. Causes of paralytic ileus may include:

    • Bacteria or viruses that cause intestinal infections (gastroenteritis)
    • Chemical, electrolyte, or mineralimbalances (such as decreased potassium levels)
    • Complications of abdominal surgery
    • Decreased blood supply to the intestines (mesenteric ischemia)
    • Infections inside the abdomen, such as appendicitis
    • Kidney or lung disease
    • Use of certain medications, especially narcotics

    Mechanical causes of intestinal obstruction may include:

    • Adhesions or scar tissue that forms after surgery
    • Foreign bodies (eaten materials that block the intestines)
    • Gallstones (rare)
    • Hernias
    • Impacted stool
    • Intussusception (telescoping of one segment of bowel into another)
    • Tumors blocking the intestines
    • Volvulus (twisted intestine)

    Symptoms

    • Abdominal swelling (distention)
    • Abdominal fullness, gas
    • Abdominal pain and cramping
    • Breath odor
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Inability to pass gas
    • Vomiting

    Exams and Tests

    During a physical exam, the health care provider may find bloating, tenderness, or hernias in the abdomen.

    Tests that show obstruction include:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Abdominal x-ray
    • Barium enema
    • Upper GI and small bowel series

    Treatment

    Treatment involves placing a tube through the nose into the stomach or intestine to help relieve abdominalswelling (distention)and vomiting. Volvulus of the large bowel may be treated by passing a tube into the rectum.

    Surgery may be needed to relieve the obstruction if the tube does not relieve the symptoms, or if there are signs of tissue death.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The outcome depends on the cause of the blockage. Most of the time the cause is easily treated.

    Possible Complications

    Complications may include or may lead to:

    • Electrolyte (blood chemical and mineral) imbalances
    • Dehydration
    • Hole (perforation) in the intestine
    • Infection
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

    If the obstruction blocks the blood supply to the intestine, it may cause infection and tissue death (gangrene). Risks for tissue death are related to the cause of the blockage and how long it has been present. Hernias, volvulus, and intussusceptioncarry a higher gangrene risk.

    Ina newborn, paralytic ileus that destroys the bowel wall (necrotizing enterocolitis) is life-threatening and may lead to blood and lung infections.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you:

    • Cannot pass stool or gas
    • Have a swollen abdomen (distention) that does not go away
    • Keep vomiting

    Prevention

    Prevention depends on the cause. Treating conditions, such as tumors and hernias, that can lead to obstruction may reduce your risk of getting an obstruction.

    Some causes of obstruction cannot be prevented.

    References

    McKenzie S, Evers BM. Small intestine. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2012:chap 50.

    Fry RD, Mahmoud N, Maron DJ, Bleier JIS. Colon and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2012:chap 52.

    Turnage RH, Heldmann M. Intestinal obstruction. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 119.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Digestive system

      illustration

    • Ileus - X-ray of distend...

      illustration

    • Ileus - X-ray of bowel d...

      illustration

    • Intussusception - X-ray

      illustration

    • Volvulus - X-ray

      illustration

    • Small bowel obstruction ...

      illustration

    • Small bowel resection -...

      Presentation

      • Digestive system

        illustration

      • Ileus - X-ray of distend...

        illustration

      • Ileus - X-ray of bowel d...

        illustration

      • Intussusception - X-ray

        illustration

      • Volvulus - X-ray

        illustration

      • Small bowel obstruction ...

        illustration

      • Small bowel resection -...

        Presentation

      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Intestinal obstruction

              Review Date: 7/25/2012

              Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington; and Joshua Kunin, MD, Consulting Colorectal Surgeon, Zichron Yaakov, Israel. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
              adam.com

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              History
              Mission
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs
              Assessment

              Newsroom
              Services
              Brain & Spine
              Cancer
              Heart
              Maternity
              Orthopedics
              Pulmonary
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              mystlukes
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Health Risk Assessments
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Volunteer
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              Careers
              Careers
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile