Potential goal description – “Know the causes, symptoms and treatment options of intestinal obstruction, a severe medical condition that affects digestion.”

Possible meta description -

An obstruction in the intestine, also known as intestinal obstruction, occurs when there is a block that prevents the normal flow of food, liquids and gases through the digestive tract. This condition may be due to various factors, such as physical obstructions, inflammation or functional problems. It is a serious illness that requires an early diagnosis and adequate treatment to avoid complications.

Causes of intestinal obstruction:

  1. Tumors: Benign or malignant tumors in the intestines can obstruct the passage of material.
  2. ADHERENCES: The scar tissue formed after surgical intervention or abdominal trauma can cause intestines to twist or get stuck, causing an obstruction.
  3. Hernias: The protrusion of the intestine through a weakened area of the abdominal wall can cause obstruction.
  4. Intususception: This occurs when a intestine portion folds within another section, often seen in children.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain: continuous cramps or discomforts in the abdomen are a frequent symptom.
  • Dystended abdomen: swelling or strain of the belly due to the accumulation of gases and liquids.
  • Nausea and vomiting: obstruction alters normal digestion, which causes vomiting.
  • Constipation or inability to expel gases: obstruction prevents the passage of stool and gases.

Intestinal obstruction can cause serious complications if not, such as tissue damage, infection or breakage of the intestine. Immediate medical attention is necessary to avoid potentially mortal consequences.


The treatment of intestinal obstruction depends on the underlying cause, the severity of the patient’s general obstruction and health. In some cases, no n-surgical interventions, such as intestinal rest, intravenous fluids and medications to relieve symptoms, can be initially tried. However, surgical intervention is often necessary to eliminate obstruction and repair any damaged or obstructed section of the intestine.

To determine the proper treatment, it is essential that a medical professional perform an exhaustive evaluation. A timely intervention can help relieve symptoms, resolve obstruction and restore normal intestinal function.

Understanding Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstruction can be caused by various factors. A common cause is the presence of a physical obstruction, such as a tumor, a hernia, or adhesions, which are bands of scar tissue that form after surgery. Other causes include inflammation, seen in diseases such as Crohn’s or diverticulitis, or twisting of the intestine, known as volvulus. Understanding the underlying cause of the obstruction is essential to determining the most appropriate treatment.

Important information:

  • Intestinal obstruction can cause serious symptoms and complications if left untreated.
  • Symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or inability to pass gas.
  • If you experience these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor quickly.

Once diagnosed, treatment of intestinal obstruction can be surgical or non-surgical. In some cases, nonsurgical interventions such as medications, bowel rest, and the use of a nasogastric tube may be enough to relieve the obstruction. However, in more severe cases or when the obstruction is caused by a physical blockage, surgery may be necessary to remove the obstruction and repair any damage to the intestines.

Causes of Intestinal Obstruction

A common cause of intestinal obstruction is the presence of adhesions, which are bands of fibrous tissue that form after abdominal surgery or an infection. These adhesions can join loops of the intestine and cause an obstruction. Additionally, hernias, which occur when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue, can also cause an intestinal obstruction.

Causes of Intestinal Obstruction:

  • Adhesions: Fibrous bands of tissue that form after surgery or infection.
  • Hernias: Organs or tissues that protrude through weak points in the muscle or connective tissue.
  • Tumors: Abnormal growths that can occlude the intestinal tract.
  • Intussusception: Condition in which one portion of the intestine slips into another, causing an obstruction.
  1. Volvulus: A condition in which part of the intestine twists, causing an obstruction.
  2. Impacted stool: Hardened stool that cannot pass through the intestines.

It is important to note that intestinal obstruction can also be caused by functional problems such as paralytic ileus, a condition in which the normal muscle contractions of the intestines are impaired. Rarely, the blockage may be due to congenital abnormalities or inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Intestinal Obstruction


  • Abdominal pain: intense pain, cramp type, in the abdomen is a frequent symptom of intestinal obstruction. Pain location may vary depending on the place of obstruction.
  • Vomiting: The presence of an obstruction can cause frequent and energetic vomiting. Vomiting can contain bile, a yellowish green liquid.
  • Dystended abdomen: intestinal obstruction can cause distension and swelling of the abdomen. The abdomen can be hard and sensitive to touch.
  • Constipation: The difficulty or inability to evacuate feces is another symptom of intestinal obstruction. It can be accompanied by lack of gases or flat.
  • Changes in Depositions: Some individuals may experience alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.


The diagnosis of intestinal obstruction implies an exhaustive evaluation of the medical history, physical examination and patient’s diagnostic tests. First, the doctor will evaluate the patient’s symptoms and perform a complete physical examination, which will include the palpation of the abdomen to detect signs of sensitivity or distension.

Other diagnostic tests can be requested to confirm the diagnosis and determine the location and scope of the obstruction. These tests may include:

  1. Image tests: radiographs, computerized tomographs or ultrasound to visualize the intestine and identify the presence of an obstruction can be used.
  2. Study with barium: In this procedure, the patient ingests a contrast medium that contains barium, which helps delineate the intestines and identify any obstruction in an radiography.
  3. Colonoscopy or endoscopy: These procedures imply the use of a flexible tube with a camera to directly examine the intestines and identify any obstruction or anomaly.

The early recognition and diagnosis of intestinal obstruction are vital to prevent complications and initiate proper treatment. Therefore, people who experience symptoms such as intense abdominal pain, persistent vomiting or changes in depositions should seek immediate medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive the necessary care.

Treatment Options for Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstruction, a condition that prevents the normal movement of food, liquids and gases through intestines, requires immediate medical attention to avoid serious complications. The intestinal obstruction treatment options depend on the severity of the obstruction, the underlying cause and the patient’s general state of health.

One of the main objectives of the treatment of intestinal obstruction is to relieve obstruction and restore the normal functioning of the intestine. This can be achieved by surgical and no n-surgical approaches. No n-surgical treatment options are usually tried in the first place, especially in cases where obstruction is partial or the patient’s condition allows conservative treatment.

No n-surgical treatment options:

  • NPO status (nothing orally): It consists of restricting oral intake to avoid a greater accumulation of food or liquids in the clogged intestine.
  • Intravenous fluids: Fluid therapy is used to maintain hydration and electrolytic balance in patients who cannot take liquids orally.
  • Nasogastric probe decompression: a fine probe is introduced through the nose to the stomach to extract excess air and liquid, relieveing the pressure and reducing the size of the obstruction.
  • Intestinal rest: total or partial intestinal rest can be advised to allow the intestine to recover and reduce inflammation.

If no n-surgical methods fail to solve the obstruction or if the condition is serious or potentially deadly, surgical intervention is necessary. The objective of surgery is to eliminate obstruction, repair the damaged or sick parts of the intestine and restore normal intestinal function. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the cause and location of the obstruction. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove a section of the intestine (resection) and r e-connect healthy ends (anastomosis). In more complex cases, a temporary or permanent stoma can be created to divert the intestinal content to an external bag.

Surgical treatment options:

  • Intestinal resection and anastomosis: This procedure is to remove the clogged segment of the intestine and unite healthy ends.
  • Creation of a stoma: in certain cases, a stoma can be created to divert the flow of intestinal content.
  • Adhesion lysis: If adhesions or scar tissue are the cause of obstruction, they can be surgically released to restore the normal functioning of the intestine.
  • Bypass surgery: In some cases, a bypass can be created to circumvalate the clogged zone and allow intestinal content to flow into another part of the intestine.

Complications Associated with Intestinal Obstruction

1. Strangulation: One of the most serious complications of intestinal obstruction is strangulation. This occurs when the blood supply to the affected area is compromised due to obstruction. Without adequate blood irrigation, intestine tissues can be damaged and ended. Strangulation requires immediate surgical intervention to eliminate obstruction and restore blood flow to the affected area.

  1. Drilling: Another potential complication of intestinal obstruction is drilling. As the pressure increases inside the clogged intestine, the intestine walls can weaken or even break. This can cause the filtration of the intestinal content to the abdominal cavity, causing infection and potentially mortal complications. Surgical intervention is often necessary to repair drilling and avoid subsequent complications.
  2. Infection: Intestinal obstruction can also increase the risk of developing an infection. The stagnant content in the obstructed intestine provides an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply. If not, the infection can be extended throughout the body and cause a condition called sepsis. Fast treatment with antibiotics and surgical intervention, if necessary, are essential to prevent the spread of infection.
Complication Description
Strangulation The decrease in blood irrigation in the affected area causes damage to the tissues and their possible death.
Drilling The increase in pressure in the clogged intestine can weaken or break its walls, causing the leakage of the intestinal content to the abdominal cavity.
Infection The stagnant content in the clogged intestine creates an environment conducive to bacterial growth, which increases the risk of infection.

Intestinal obstruction can lead to serious complications such as strangulation, perforation and infection. Immediate medical care is crucial to prevent major damage and improve the possibilities of satisfactory recovery. If you or someone you know presents symptoms of intestinal obstruction, such as abdominal pain, swelling or vomiting, it is important to seek immediate medical assistance.

Prevention of Intestinal Obstruction

Dietary modifications: a balanced and rich diet in fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining intestinal regularity and obstruction prevention. Including foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can favor intestinal movement and prevent har d-stool formation. In addition, it is important to consume an adequate amount of liquids throughout the day to maintain hydrated intestines and facilitate the evacuation of the feces. In addition, people should avoid excessive consumption of fatty and processed foods, since they can contribute to constipation and increase the risk of obstruction.

  1. Regular physical activity: practicing regular physical activity is not only beneficial to health in general, but also plays an important role in prevention of intestinal obstruction. Exercise stimulates intestine muscles, favoring intestinal movement and avoiding the accumulation of feces. Activities such as walking at a light pace, footing or yoga can be incorporated into the daily routine to maintain intestinal health. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight through exercise can reduce the risk of obesity, which is a known risk factor of intestinal obstruction.
  2. Avoid medication abuse: certain medications can contribute to the development of intestinal obstruction. It is known that no n-steroidal ant i-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and opiates increase the risk of constipation, which can cause obstruction over time. It is important to use these medications only following the instructions of a healthcare professional and look for alternative options for pain treatment whenever possible. In addition, people who frequently need medications that may cause constipation should consult their doctor to take preventive measures, such as feces or laxative softeners.

Note: It is essential to consult a healthcare professional to obtain personalized advice and recommendations on the prevention of intestinal obstruction, especially in the case of people with pr e-existing diseases or with a greater risk.

If the diet is modified, a regular physical activity is practiced and medication abuse is avoided, the risk of intestinal obstruction can be considerably reduced. These preventive measures, combined with periodic medical reviews and rapid treatment of any underlying condition, can help promote and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system.

Author of the article
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Medical oncologist at the Robert Larner College of Medicine, MD, at the University of Vermont

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