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Gastrointestinal Complications (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Large or Small Bowel Obstruction

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Sometimes, decompression is difficult even with a gastrostomy tube in place. This problem may be caused by the accumulation of fluid, since several liters of gastrointestinal secretions may be produced per day. To relieve continuous abdominal pain, opioid analgesics via continuous subcutaneous or intravenous infusion may be necessary. Effective antispasmodics in this situation include anticholinergics (such as hyoscine butylbromide) [21] and possibly corticosteroids as well as centrally acting agents. If the bowel obstruction is thought to be functional (rather than mechanical) in origin, metoclopramide is the drug of choice because of its prokinetic effects on the bowel. For complete bowel obstruction thought to be irreversible, a trial of an antispasmodic such as hyoscyamine may decrease bowel contractions and therefore yield pain relief. Another option for management of refractory pain and/or nausea is the synthetic somatostatin analog octreotide. This agent inhibits the release of several gastrointestinal hormones and reduces gastrointestinal secretions.[22,23][Level of evidence: I][24] Octreotide is usually given subcutaneously at 50 to 200 µg 3 times per day and may reduce the nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain of malignant bowel obstruction. For selected patients, the addition of an anticholinergic such as scopolamine may be helpful in reducing the associated painful colic of malignant bowel obstruction when octreotide alone is ineffective. When either scopolamine or octreotide is used alone, each is ineffective.[12,25,26,27] Corticosteroids are widely used in treating bowel obstruction, but empirical support is limited.[28] They may be useful as adjuvant antiemetics and analgesics in this setting, given as dexamethasone at a starting dose of 6 to 10 mg subcutaneously or intravenously 3 to 4 times per day.[12,25] (Refer to the Nausea, Vomiting, Constipation, and Bowel Obstruction in Advanced Cancer section in the PDQ summary on Nausea and Vomiting for more information.)

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about constipation, impaction, and bowel obstruction that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

  1. Givens BA, Simmons SJ: Gastroenterology in Clinical Nursing. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: C.V. Mosby Co, 1984.
  2. Bouchier IA: Gastroenterology. 3rd ed. London: Balliere Tindall, 1982.
  3. Ripamonti C, De Conno F, Ventafridda V, et al.: Management of bowel obstruction in advanced and terminal cancer patients. Ann Oncol 4 (1): 15-21, 1993.
  4. Horiuchi A, Maeyama H, Ochi Y, et al.: Usefulness of Dennis Colorectal Tube in endoscopic decompression of acute, malignant colonic obstruction. Gastrointest Endosc 54 (2): 229-32, 2001.
  5. Martinez-Santos C, Lobato RF, Fradejas JM, et al.: Self-expandable stent before elective surgery vs. emergency surgery for the treatment of malignant colorectal obstructions: comparison of primary anastomosis and morbidity rates. Dis Colon Rectum 45 (3): 401-6, 2002.
  6. Ripamonti C, Bruera E: Palliative management of malignant bowel obstruction. Int J Gynecol Cancer 12 (2): 135-43, 2002 Mar-Apr.
  7. Potluri V, Zhukovsky DS: Recent advances in malignant bowel obstruction: an interface of old and new. Curr Pain Headache Rep 7 (4): 270-8, 2003.
  8. Jung GS, Song HY, Kang SG, et al.: Malignant gastroduodenal obstructions: treatment by means of a covered expandable metallic stent-initial experience. Radiology 216 (3): 758-63, 2000.
  9. Camúñez F, Echenagusia A, Simó G, et al.: Malignant colorectal obstruction treated by means of self-expanding metallic stents: effectiveness before surgery and in palliation. Radiology 216 (2): 492-7, 2000.
  10. Coco C, Cogliandolo S, Riccioni ME, et al.: Use of a self-expanding stent in the palliation of rectal cancer recurrences. A report of three cases. Surg Endosc 14 (8): 708-11, 2000.
  11. Blair SL, Chu DZ, Schwarz RE: Outcome of palliative operations for malignant bowel obstruction in patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis from nongynecological cancer. Ann Surg Oncol 8 (8): 632-7, 2001.
  12. Baron TH: Expandable metal stents for the treatment of cancerous obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. N Engl J Med 344 (22): 1681-7, 2001.
  13. Law WL, Chu KW, Ho JW, et al.: Self-expanding metallic stent in the treatment of colonic obstruction caused by advanced malignancies. Dis Colon Rectum 43 (11): 1522-7, 2000.
  14. Repici A, Reggio D, De Angelis C, et al.: Covered metal stents for management of inoperable malignant colorectal strictures. Gastrointest Endosc 52 (6): 735-40, 2000.
  15. Harris GJ, Senagore AJ, Lavery IC, et al.: The management of neoplastic colorectal obstruction with colonic endolumenal stenting devices. Am J Surg 181 (6): 499-506, 2001.
  16. Aviv RI, Shyamalan G, Watkinson A, et al.: Radiological palliation of malignant colonic obstruction. Clin Radiol 57 (5): 347-51, 2002.
  17. Dauphine CE, Tan P, Beart RW Jr, et al.: Placement of self-expanding metal stents for acute malignant large-bowel obstruction: a collective review. Ann Surg Oncol 9 (6): 574-9, 2002.
  18. Lopera JE, Alvarez O, Castaño R, et al.: Initial experience with Song's covered duodenal stent in the treatment of malignant gastroduodenal obstruction. J Vasc Interv Radiol 12 (11): 1297-303, 2001.
  19. Razzaq R, Laasch HU, England R, et al.: Expandable metal stents for the palliation of malignant gastroduodenal obstruction. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol 24 (5): 313-8, 2001 Sep-Oct.
  20. Baron TH, Rey JF, Spinelli P: Expandable metal stent placement for malignant colorectal obstruction. Endoscopy 34 (10): 823-30, 2002.
  21. De Conno F, Caraceni A, Zecca E, et al.: Continuous subcutaneous infusion of hyoscine butylbromide reduces secretions in patients with gastrointestinal obstruction. J Pain Symptom Manage 6 (8): 484-6, 1991.
  22. Ripamonti C, Mercadante S, Groff L, et al.: Role of octreotide, scopolamine butylbromide, and hydration in symptom control of patients with inoperable bowel obstruction and nasogastric tubes: a prospective randomized trial. J Pain Symptom Manage 19 (1): 23-34, 2000.
  23. Mystakidou K, Tsilika E, Kalaidopoulou O, et al.: Comparison of octreotide administration vs conservative treatment in the management of inoperable bowel obstruction in patients with far advanced cancer: a randomized, double- blind, controlled clinical trial. Anticancer Res 22 (2B): 1187-92, 2002 Mar-Apr.
  24. Fallon MT: The physiology of somatostatin and its synthetic analogue, octreotide. European Journal of Palliative Care 1 (1): 20-2, 1994.
  25. Mercadante S: Assessment and management of mechanical bowel obstruction. In: Portenoy RK, Bruera E, eds.: Topics in Palliative Care. Volume 1. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 113-30.
  26. Fainsinger RL: Integrating medical and surgical treatments in gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and biliary obstruction in patients with cancer. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 10 (1): 173-88, 1996.
  27. Ripamonti C, Panzeri C, Groff L, et al.: The role of somatostatin and octreotide in bowel obstruction: pre-clinical and clinical results. Tumori 87 (1): 1-9, 2001 Jan-Feb.
  28. Feuer DJ, Broadley KE: Systematic review and meta-analysis of corticosteroids for the resolution of malignant bowel obstruction in advanced gynaecological and gastrointestinal cancers. Systematic Review Steering Committee. Ann Oncol 10 (9): 1035-41, 1999.
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Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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