Intestinal obstruction is a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small or large intestine. This blockage can cause a buildup of food, fluids, gastric acids, and gas. Without prompt medical care, pressure begins to occur. This can consequently result in a split or rupture. The cause of the blockage will ultimately spread bacteria into the abdominal cavity. However, with prompt medical management, intestinal obstruction is well treatable with high success rate.

A bowel obstruction may be a partial blockage, complete blockage or pseudo blockage. The pseudo blockage is a false symptoms of a bowel obstruction with nothing physically blocking it

Causes of Intestinal Obstruction

The cause of bowel obstruction includes any of the following:

  • Adhesions, or tissue that can develop post pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Abdominal nerve and muscle disorders such as in paralytic ileus.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBDs)
  • Diabetes
  • Certain abdominal tumors
  • Hypothyroidism
  • An intussusception (when a portion of the intestine pushes into another) or a twisted bowel
  • Diverticulitis
  • A foreign object in the digestive tract
  • Hernias
  • Impacted stools
  • meconium plug (in newborns)
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Opioid medication

Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction

Bowel obstructions can be painful and distressing. Symptoms however include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea: these are the earliest signs of bowel obstruction.
  • Bloating
  • Inability to pass stools or gas
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling of the abdomen

If a fever develops alongside some symptoms like severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, quickly visit the doctor. It can be a danger sign of a split or rupture in the bowel.

Complications of Intestinal Obstruction

Severe, life-threatening conditions can arise from untreated intestinal obstructions. Such complications include:

  1. Tissue death due to loss of blood supply. This may lead to abdominal perforation.
  2. Peritonitis: an infection of the abdominal cavity.


  1. Physical examination: An obstruction can cause a palpable hard lump in the abdomen. Lack of regular bowel sounds may suggest a bowel obstruction.
  2. Blood tests to check levels of electrolytes
  3. Liver and kidney function tests
  4. CT scan
  5. Endoscopy
  6. X-rays
  7. Enema with contrast


Treatment for bowel obstruction varies. It depends on the cause and extent of blockage. Never attempt to treat obstruction by yourself at home. Treatment measures for bowel obstruction can include:

  • Observation: that is, simply resting the bowels by limiting food and drink to stop further buildup. Furthermore, intravenous fluid may be given to keep people hydrated.
  • Enema: a medication or tap water would be passed into the bowel via a tube. It helps relieve stool impaction.
  • Medication: laxatives and stool softeners may be prescribed to ease constipation. Antinausea medicines may be prescribed to prevent vomiting and antibiotics to fight against bacterial infection
  • Nasogastric tube: This tube is passed in order to remove trapped fluid and gas in the abdomen, thereby relieving pressure.
  • Surgery: Blocked or damaged section of the intestine can be removed by surgery.

Having symptoms of intestinal obstruction?

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