Intestinal Obstruction

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Bowel blockage can be as a result of the twisted intestine and other factors. It affects both the small and large bowel and can be a partial or complete bowel obstruction. The signs and treatments of this defect are as follows:

Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstruction, also known as ‘bowel obstruction’, is a condition where digested content solid or liquid is partially or completely blocked from passing through the digestive tract and out of your bowels, either the small or the large intestine.

Blockages can be caused by materials or growths which close up the passageway either inside the intestines or outside the intestines. When this happens you find it hard to or stop defecating or urinating, while experiencing severe pains. This can lead to a swollen stomach.

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Intestinal Obstruction

Types of Intestinal Obstructions

Types of bowel obstruction can be classified in two ways; the type that involves which intestine it affects, and the types by its effects.

By Effects:

Partial Obstruction

A situation where the bowels are partially obstructed causing severe pains in the abdomen when their digested materials need to pass through the spectrum. Digested materials after a long strain and painful episodes pass through, but some may still be held back.

Complete Obstruction

In this situation, the passageway is completely blocked and no digestive materials can be passed out. It creates a lot of inconvenience and abdominal pains and to get waste products out of the system, nausea occurs frequently.

By Intestine:

Small Intestinal Obstruction

In this situation, the small intestine is partially or completely blocked from passing out waste products. 

Large Intestinal Obstruction

This occurs when the large intestine is partially or completely blocked from excreting digested materials due to certain problematic obstructions.

Risk Factors

Physical factors include:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease
  • Intussusception
  • Malignancy
  • Cancerous tumors in the abdomen
  • Adhesion is a result of scar tissues from abdominal or pelvic surgeries.
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Diverticular disease
  • Volvulus, that is a twisted colon 
  • Impacted feces, etc.

Pseudo-obstruction factors may include:

  • Infection
  • Disorders of the nerve or muscles such as the Parkinson’s disease
  • Medications such as tricyclic antidepressants and opioids drugs that affect the nerves and muscles.
  • Diabetes
  • When nerves are missing from the bowels and causing Hirschsprung’s disease.
  • Abdominal, ovarian, or pelvic surgeries.

Possible Complications 

If the blockage is not addressed on time, severe medical cases may arise. These health issues can become so critical and out of control. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Imbalance in electrolytes
  • Abdominal abscesses
  • Death of Intestinal Tissues

With no flow in the blood to your intestine due to the obstruction, the intestinal walls begin to decay and die off.

Perforation of Intestinal Walls.

As a result of dead tissues, holes can be formed in spots that have been far too weakened.

  • Infection; holes, and wounds in the bowels can become infected. Infections such as peritonitis and sepsis are also likely to occur.
  • Liver and kidney failure


Once you have noticed constipation that has lasted for a week or more, you should seek to consult a doctor.

To diagnose, the doctor first goes through your medical history to find out if there’s any record of ailment that can lead to bowel obstruction. A stethoscope is further used to examine the bowel’s activities for movement. Where there’s no sense of movement and a compact stomach, there is likely an obstruction in the intestine.

The following can then be used to figure it out:

Blood tests, to find out the electrolytic level of the blood, and if the liver and kidney are still functional.

Imaging tests, to view the stomach and intestine for obstructions. Oftentimes, a special liquid called barium enema is injected into your rectum and spreads into your bowels to brighten the area when imaging is carried out. Imaging tests include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • Endoscopy

Colonoscope; inserted through the spectrum to check if the colon is twisted. It can also be used to untwist the colon.


An intestinal obstruction causes a lot of inconveniences added with the insistent pains you feel. And with the complications that can cause more discomfort, it is advisable that once you know it is an obstruction, you should treat it immediately. 

The following ways are recommended to cure the ailment:

Special Diets

For most partial obstructions, you can be placed under observation, because these blockages can be relieved after some days. During the period of observation, you are placed on special diets such as soft meals and fluids that can soften the activities in the bowels. Solid meals are avoided to prevent further buildup.


Drugs such as pain relievers to ease the pains, laxatives and feces softeners to help you defecate, anti nausea drugs to stop nausea and vomiting, and antibiotics to combat infections, can be used to ease your discomfort. They can be given in the form of fluid through intravenous lines.

Nasogastric (NG) Tube

A thin tube is inserted through your nose and into your abdomen. This aids in relieving some pressure from your intestine by helping you release gas and fluid.


Fluid or air can be injected into your bowels to cause reactive pressures in your stomach and relieve the compaction. 


For any disease-induced closures, a mesh tube is pushed into your bowels to force it open.


For a blocked bowel, surgery is the best option for treatment. Tumors, malignant, adhesions, hernias, etc, can be operated on and taken out. The damaged tissues and parts of the intestine can be removed. Twisted colons can also be untwisted.

Complications in surgery such as a paralytic bowel, nerve damage, adhesions, and short bowel syndrome, where the part taken out of the bowel brings a loss in some functions, can occur.


The preventive measures against intestinal obstruction are often related to your diet and lifestyle. As you grow older, your digestive system grows slower thereby increasing the risk of bowel obstructions.

To prevent such from happening, keep to these guidelines:

  • Eat a lot of balanced diets. However, consume a lot more vegetables and fruits than you consume fat and carbohydrate. The ratio should be 70:30.
  • Avoid tough and high-fiber foods like nuts, wholegrain cereals, dried meat, popcorn, etc. Eat more soft moist dishes like soups, sauces, etc.
  • Cook until it softens. Hard foods have a higher chance of causing a build-up.
  • Cut food in little chucks while eating and make sure to chew them properly before you swallow.
  • Take off the peels of fruits and vegetables before eating them to aid easier digestion.
  • Cut down on your caffeine to avoid irritating and inflaming the bowels.
  • Avoid carrying heavy materials to prevent the formation of hernia.
  • Quit smoking and any addictive drug usage.
  • Lessen your intake of alcohol.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Exercise more.
  • Limit your stress level.
  • Take stool softeners when you have problems with bowel movements.


The signs that accompany bowel obstruction may include:

  • Severe abdominal pains and cramps often around the belly button.
  • Lack of bowel movements and the inability to pass outgas.
  • Hard and swollen stomach
  • Constipation.
  • Bloodstained feces when there is partial obstruction.
  • Diarrhea in partial obstruction.
  • Nauseous feelings that lead to vomiting.


The causes of bowel obstruction can be due to physical barriers in or outside the bowels causing obstructions in the spectrum or ileus, which causes pseudo-obstruction.


1. Can a bowel obstruction correct itself?

When the obstruction is partial, it can better on its own. Avoid tough stringy foods, but instead taking a lot of fluid can help the situation. Unlike totally blocked bowels which at a higher rate require surgery, partially blocked bowels can heal fast with simple nasogastric tubes and enemas.

2. Can you poop with an obstruction?

In partial obstruction, pooping is possible but often comes in the form of diarrhea. Meanwhile, in a complete obstruction, you find it impossible to pass out gas or feces. Instead, you can result in fecal vomiting. 

3. Can bowel obstruction cause back pain?

When there is an obstruction in your bowel or colon the resulting pains can spread from your abdomen to your back, causing lower backaches.

4. What are the mechanical causes of intestinal obstruction?

The mechanical causes are also referred to as the physical causes blocking the bowels. They include; scar tissues, tumors, hernia, intussusception, etc

5. What is the difference between an ileus and a bowel obstruction?

Both have similarities as they stop digested food from passing through the spectrum. However, ileus is as a result of muscle and nerve problems that stop food from going through the digestive tract, also called ‘pseudo-obstruction’. While bowel obstruction is a result of physical barriers in the digestive tract.