Bowel obstruction (patient information)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

For the WikiDoc page for this topic, click here

Bowel obstruction


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Bowel obstruction?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Bowel obstruction On the Web

Ongoing Trials at Clinical

Images of Bowel obstruction

Videos on Bowel obstruction

FDA on Bowel obstruction

CDC on Bowel obstruction

Bowel obstruction in the news

Blogs on Bowel obstruction

Directions to Hospitals Treating Bowel obstruction

Risk calculators and risk factors for Bowel obstruction

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Assistant Editor-in-Chief: Meagan E. Doherty


A bowel obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the bowel that results in the failure of the intestinal contents to pass through.

What are the symptoms of Bowel obstruction?

The symptoms of a bowel obstruction include:

What causes Bowel obstruction?

Obstruction of the bowel may due to:

  • A mechanical cause, which simply 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 bowel obstruction in infants and children. Causes of paralytic ileus may include:

In older children, paralytic ileus may be due to bacterial, viral, or food poisoning (gastroenteritis), which is sometimes associated with secondary peritonitis and appendicitis.

Mechanical causes of a bowel obstruction may include:

Who is at highest risk?


While listening to the abdomen with a stethoscope your health care provider may hear high-pitched bowel sounds at the onset of mechanical obstruction. If the obstruction has persisted for too long or the bowel has been significantly damaged, bowel sounds decrease, eventually becoming silent.

Early paralytic ileus is marked by decreased or absent bowel sound.

Tests that show obstruction include:

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your health care provider if persistent abdominal distention develops and you are unable to pass stool or gas, or if other symptoms of bowel obstruction develop.

Treatment options

Treatment involves placing a tube through the nose into the stomach or intestine to help relieve abdominal distention and vomiting.

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

Medications to avoid

Patients diagnosed with bowel obstruction should avoid using the following medications:

  • Alosetron
  • Colesevelam
  • Sevelamer
    If you have been diagnosed with bowel obstruction, consult your physician before starting or stopping any of these medications.

Diseases with similar symptoms

Where to find medical care for Bowel obstruction?

Directions to Hospitals Treating a Bowel obstruction


Prevention depends on the cause. Treatment of conditions (such as tumors and hernias) that are related to obstruction may reduce your risk.

Some causes of obstruction cannot be prevented.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)

The outcome varies with the cause of the obstruction.

Possible complications

Complications may include or may lead to:

If the obstruction blocks the blood supply to the intestine, the tissue may die, causing infection and gangrene. Risk factors for tissue death include intestinal cancer, Crohn's disease, hernia, and previous abdominal surgery.

In the newborn, paralytic ileus that is associated with destruction of the bowel wall (necrotizing enterocolitis) is life-threatening and may lead to blood and lung infections.


  1. "Nutrition | Yahoo! Health". Retrieved 2013-02-20.

Template:WH Template:WS