Intestinal blockages

Intestinal blockage also called intestinal obstruction occurs when passage of food through the small intestine or the large intestine (colon) is blocked. Intestinal blockages if not detected early and treated can cause fatalities. The blocked part of the intestine will deteriorate leading to problems. Hernias, tumors, abdominal adhesions after a surgery and infected pouches in the intestine are some of the common causes of intestinal blockages.

Intestinal Blockages
The obstruction can be complete or partial. Partial blockage where part of the intestine is blocked is called mechanical obstructions. When there is complete blockage and the intestine fails to work properly it is called paralytic ileus.

What Causes Intestinal Blockage?

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Strangulated hernia
  • Colon cancer
  • Adhesions
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Gallstones
  • Intussuception
  • Volvulus
  • Ingestion of foreign objects

Mechanical obstruction

  • Colon cancer
  • Volvulus
  • Impacted feces
  • Diverticulitis
  • Narrowing of colon

Paralytic ileus

  • Pelvic surgery
  • Infection
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Antidepressant and pain medications

Intestinal Blockage Symptoms

  • Distention
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps on and off

Intestinal Blockage Diagnosis

Physical Exam

To check the abdomen for bloating and tenderness and hernias in the abdomen.

Abdominal x-rays

Radiological findings will show centrally located loops of the intestine, collapsed colon, multiple air fluid levels and a dilated small bowel.

Blood tests

At first the blood tests may be normal. But later the tests show electrolyte imbalances.

Barium enema

A white powder, barium sulfate is inserted through the rectum and images of the intestinal area are taken. Barium is a contrast material showing any obstruction on the image.

CT scan

Non-contrast CT scan is done if suspicion of obstruction is high and to detect peritoneal fluids.

Fluid Charts

A nasogastric tube is passed for detection of oliguria.

Treatment For Intestinal Blockage

 Most intestinal obstructions are sub-acute and settle down without an operation. Sometimes surgical treatment is required to correct the obstruction.