Intestinal obstruction is a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through your small intestine or large intestine (colon). Intestinal obstruction may be caused by fibrous bands of tissue in the abdomen (adhesions) which form after surgery, inflamed or infected pouches in your intestine (diverticulitis), hernias and tumors.
Without treatment, the blocked parts of the intestine can die, leading to serious problems. However, with prompt medical care, intestinal obstruction often can 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 and water from the foods. What isn't absorbed ...
Signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction include:
When to see a doctor
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 an adjacent part. ...
Diseases and conditions that can increase your risk of intestinal obstruction include:
Untreated, intestinal obstruction can cause serious, life-threatening complications, including:
Preparing for your appointment
Intestinal obstruction is usually a medical emergency. As a result, you may not have much time to prepare for an 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, but generally requires hospitalization.
Hospitalization to stabilize your condition
Treatment for partial mechanical obstruction
Treatment for complete mechanical obstruction
Alternatively, your doctor may recommend treating the obstruction with a self-expanding metal stent. The wire mesh tube is inserted into your colon via an endoscope passed through your mouth or colon. It forces open the colon so the obstruction can clear. Stents are generally used to treat people with colon cancer or to provide temporary relief for people who are at high risk of emergency surgery. You may still need surgery, once your condition is stable.
Treatment for paralytic ileus
If paralytic ileus doesn't improve within several days, your doctor may prescribe medication that causes muscle contractions, which can help move food and fluids through your intestines. If paralytic ileus is caused by an illness or medication, the doctor will treat the underlying illness or stop the medication.
Last Updated: 2012-12-18
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