What is an Intestinal Obstruction? Intestinal obstructions are a possibly serious condition where the intestinal tracts are obstructed. If obstruction happens, food and drink can not pass through the body. Both the small intestine and big intestine (colon) can be affected. Blockages are thought about an emergency situation and might necessary surgery.
Digestive tract obstruction is the partial or total clog of the intestinal tracts at one or more areas. Blockages prevent liquids and solids from travelling through the digestive tract. There are a variety of causes. These can include mechanical clogs, swallowed things, infections, and nervous system conditions.
This can be an emergency situation. If the intestines are obstructed, that part of the intestinal tract can pass away. Dehydration can likewise be a hazardous problem.
What Causes Intestinal Obstruction?
Obstruction can be partial, which may fix without surgery. A complete clog will likely need intestinal tract surgery.
Mechanical blockages physically obstruct the small intestine. This can be due to:
- Adhesions: fibrous tissue that establishes after abdominal surgery.
- Volvulus: twisting of the intestines.
- Intussusception: “telescoping” or pushing of one section of intestine into the next section.
- Malformations of the intestine in newborns.
- Tumors within the small intestine.
- Gallstone (rare).
- Swallowed items (especially in children).
- Hernias: a part of the intestinal tract that extends outside of the body or into another part of the body.
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease.
Though uncommon, mechanical blockages can also obstruct the colon (big intestine). This can occur due to:
- Impacted stool.
- Colon cancer.
- Meconium plug in babies.
- Volvulus and intussusception.
- Diverticulitis: inflammation or infection of bulging pouches of intestine.
- Stricture: narrowing caused by scarring or inflammation.
Non-mechanical obstruction can take place when the muscles or nerves within the small or big intestine not function. This is called paralytic ileus. The intestinal tracts operate in a collaborated system of motion. If something interrupts these coordinated contractions, it can cause a practical digestive tract obstruction. Causes for paralytic ileus include:
- abdominal or pelvic surgery
- infections like gastroenteritis or appendicitis
- some opioid pain medications, antidepressants, and antimuscarinic medications
- decreased potassium levels, other mineral/electrolyte imbalances
- Parkinson’s disease and other nerve and muscle conditions
- Hirschsprung disease (lack of nerves in an area of intestine in newborns).
Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction
Unfortunately, the symptoms of intestinal obstruction prevail to a range of problems. It takes some time and screening to identify whether an intestinal tract obstruction exists.
Symptoms can include:
- severe abdominal pain
- cramps that can be found in waves
- queasiness and vomiting
- constipation, or failure to have a defecation
- failure to pass gas
- distention or swelling of the abdomen
- loud noises from the abdomen
- nasty breath.
How Is Intestinal Obstruction Diagnosed?
First a doctor might push on the abdomen. They will then listen with a stethoscope to any noises being made. The presence of a hard lump or the particular sort of noise produced, particularly in a child, may help determine whether an obstruction exists. Other tests include:
- Computed tomography (CT scan).
- CT Scan with contrast (CT enterography).
- Barium enema.
What Are Treatments for Intestinal Obstruction?
Treatment needs to be rapid to prevent complications like:
- electrolyte imbalances
- hole forming in the intestinal tracts (perforation)
If the obstruction is preventing blood from getting to a segment of intestine, this can cause infection, tissue death, or gangrene. In babies or premature babies, there is a concern that paralytic ileus can become necrotizing entercolitis, a possibly deadly die-off of the intestinal tract walls.
Treatment depends upon the location and severity of the obstruction. For partial blockages, it might be possible to give a low-fiber diet and await the obstruction to pass.
Treating dehydration is important. IV fluids might be begun to correct electrolyte imbalance. A catheter might be placed into the bladder to remove fluid.
Sometimes, a tube can be passed through the nose and down into the throat, stomach, and intestines to alleviate pressure, swelling, and vomiting. Surgery might still be needed after this procedure.
For some patients, a metal stent that broadens inside the intestinal tract might be put using a long tube called an endoscope. This wire mesh holds open the intestinal tract. The procedure might not need cutting into the abdominal area.
Paralytic ileus may improve without surgery. A patient might be monitored for a few days in the healthcare facility prior to any surgery is attempted. Medications to improve muscle contractions might be administered.
If the obstruction is mechanical and no other choices are available, the abdominal area might be cut into. The afflicted section of intestinal tract is then repaired or eliminated, and the surrounding intestine reattached.