Bowel Obstruction

Bowel obstruction happens when stool is mechanically or functionally blocked from progressing down the digestive tract. Bowel obstruction can also cause blood supply to the bowel to become completely or almost completely stopped, thus causing tissue damage and even tissue death.

Bowel Obstruction Symptoms

The symptoms of bowel obstruction are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of bowel movement as well as the urge to have bowel movement
  • Inability to pass flatus gas or to fart
  • Indigestion
  • Bad breath

Causes of Bowel Obstruction

Bowel obstruction is caused by:

  • Hernia
    Here, part of a bowel protrudes through an abnormal hole and becomes trapped.

  • Intussusception
    In infants and small children, one segment of the intestine can slip onto another segment and becomes blocked.

  • Cancer

  • Granulomatous processes
    In this condition, abnormal tissue growth can block the passage of intestinal content.

  • Impacted feces
    Hard stool can become lodged in the large bowel.

  • Swallowed objects
    Foreign objects that are accidentally swallowed can become lodged in the intestines.

  • Inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerativie colitis

  • Toxic megacolon
    In this disease, the colon is enlarged to the point that the smooth stomach muscle does not work anymore.

  • Volvulus or a twist in the colon

  • Gallstone ileus
    A large gallstone, often with diameter of 1 inch or larger, erodes through the gallbladder and becomes lodged in the intestine.

  • Side effect from previous surgery, such as:

    • Ileus
      A side effect of intestinal surgery or infection, ileus is the condition where the bowel stops working temporarily.

    • Adhesion
      The opening of the bowel is narrowed due to a previous abdominal surgery.

Treatment of Bowel Obstruction

The treatments for bowel obstruction depend on the severity of the condition and the cause of the obstruction:

  • Surgery
    Emergency surgery to remove the obstruction may be required, especially if tissue damage or death is present or imminent. Surgery may mean temporary or permanent colostomy, where an artificial opening in the colon is made to pass stool.

  • Barium-guided endoscopy, enema, or x-ray
    In cases of volvulus or twisted bowel and intussusception, this procedure may be able to undo the blockage.

  • Decompression of dilated colon
    For cases of functional blockage, such as ileus, resting of the bowel may help. Here, the stomach content is removed by pumping or suction and the patient is forbidden to eat or drink. An endoscopic procedure to decompress the dilated bowel may also be necessary.

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