Intestinal obstruction is a blockage of your small intestine or colon that prevents food and fluid from passing through. Intestinal obstruction can be caused by many conditions, including fibrous bands of tissue in the abdomen (adhesions), hernias and tumors.
Intestinal obstruction can result in an array of uncomfortable signs and symptoms, including abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, intestinal obstruction can cause the blocked parts of your intestine to die. This tissue death can lead to perforation of the intestine, severe infection and shock. However, with prompt medical care, intestinal obstruction can often be successfully treated.
Colon and small intestine
The small intestine and colon are components of your digestive tract, which processes the foods you eat. The small intestine and colon extract nutrients from the foods. What isn't absorbed by the ...
Signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction include:
When to see a doctor
Many conditions can cause intestinal obstruction. Intestinal obstruction can occur as the result of a "mechanical" obstruction — when something, such as a hernia or tumor, is physically blocking your intestine. Or intestinal obstruction can occur as the result of a condition in which your intestines don't function properly. This type of intestinal obstruction is called paralytic ileus (pseudo-obstruction).
Mechanical obstruction of the small intestine
Mechanical obstruction of the colon
Paralytic ileus can affect any part of the intestine. Causes can include:
Intussusception is a rare, serious disorder in which one part of the intestine slides inside another part. ...
Diseases and conditions that can increase your risk of intestinal obstruction include:
If left untreated, intestinal obstruction can cause serious, life-threatening complications, including:
Preparing for your appointment
Emergency medical care is required to treat intestinal obstruction. As a result, you may not have much time to prepare for your appointment. If you have time before your appointment, make a list of your signs and symptoms so that you can better answer your doctor's questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose intestinal obstruction include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for intestinal obstruction depends on the cause of your condition.
Hospitalization to stabilize your condition
Treatment for a partial mechanical obstruction
Treatment for a complete mechanical obstruction
Treatment for paralytic ileus
Last Updated: 2010-09-18
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