Intestinal obstruction occurs once the small or large intestine is blocked. This blockage can be partial or total and it prevents the passage of fluids and digested food.
Once an obstruction develops, food, gastric acids, fluids and gas accumulate behind the site of the blockage. If there is enough pressure, the intestine might rupture which leads to the leakage of harmful intestinal contents and bacteria into the abdominal cavity. Remember that this is a life-threatening complication.
There are various possible causes of intestinal obstruction. Oftentimes, this condition could not be prevented. Immediate diagnosis and treatment are vital. If left untreated, it can be deadly.
What are the indications of intestinal obstruction?
Intestinal obstruction can trigger a variety of undesirable symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Severe bloating
- Diminished appetite
- Inability to pass gas or stool
- Abdominal swelling
- Severe abdominal cramping
Some of these symptoms are based on the site and length of time of the obstruction. If the obstruction is partial, it can cause diarrhea while a full obstruction can cause inability to pass stool or gas.
What are the causes?
An obstruction might be partial which settles without surgery while a complete obstruction might require surgical intervention.
This type of obstruction involves a physical blockage.
Both the small and large intestines work in a coordinated movement. If there is a disruption in these coordinated contractions, it can lead to a functional intestinal obstruction which is generally called a non-mechanical obstruction.
When to consult a doctor
It is vital to seek immediate medical care if the symptoms of an intestinal obstruction are present, especially those who have recently undergone abdominal surgery. If the individual experiences severe constipation, abdominal bloating and appetite loss, seek immediate medical care.
What is the outlook?
If intestinal obstruction is not promptly treated, it can cause the tissues in the affected region of the intestine to die. It can also lead to the formation of a hole or perforation in the intestinal wall as well as severe infection and shock.
Generally, the outlook of the condition is based on its cause. Most cases of obstruction can be treated. Nevertheless, other causes such as cancer necessitates long-term treatment and monitoring.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on intestinal obstruction is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage GI tract issues including intestinal obstruction by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.