What is a bowel obstruction?
A bowel obstruction
happens when either your
large intestine is partly or completely blocked. The blockage prevents food,
fluids, and gas from moving through the intestines in the normal way. The
blockage may cause severe pain that comes and goes.
covers a blockage caused by tumors, scar tissue, or twisting or narrowing of
the intestines. It does not cover
ileus, which most commonly happens after surgery on
the belly (abdominal surgery).
What causes a bowel obstruction?
tissue (adhesions), or twisting or narrowing of the intestines
can cause a bowel obstruction. These are called
mechanical obstructions .
In the small intestine, scar tissue is most
often the cause. Other causes include
Crohn's disease, which can twist or narrow the
intestine, and tumors, which can block the intestine. A blockage also can happen if
one part of the
intestine folds like a telescope into another part, which is called
In the large intestine,
cancer is most often the cause. Other causes are severe constipation from a
hard mass of stool, and narrowing of the intestine caused by
inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the symptoms?
- Cramping and belly pain that comes and goes.
The pain can occur around or below the belly button.
- Bloating and a large, hard belly.
- Constipation and a lack of gas, if the
intestine is completely blocked.
- Diarrhea, if the intestine is
Call your doctor right away if
your belly pain is severe and constant. This may mean that your intestine's
blood supply has been cut off or that you have a hole in your intestine. This
is an emergency.
How is a bowel obstruction diagnosed?
will ask you questions about your symptoms, other digestive problems you've
had, and any surgeries or procedures you've had in that area. He or she will check your belly for tenderness and bloating.
Your doctor may do:
- An abdominal
X-ray, which can find blockages in the small and large
CT scan of the belly, which helps your doctor see
whether the blockage is partial or complete.