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Bowel obstruction

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Obstruction in movement of bowl occurs when there’s a blockage in the small or large intestine. When bowel is not able to move out of the body, it causes great deal of discomfort. We shall explain you the details in next segment...

Causes of bowel obstruction

  • Mechanical obstructions like twisting, narrowing and scarring of the intestine
  • Hernia, tumours, Crohn’s disease can adversely affect the small intestine
  • Hardening of stool due to severe constipation
  • Cancer and tumour of the large intestine
  • IBS and diverticulitis
  • Volvulus- twisting of the intestine
  • Intussusception- collapsing of the small intestine

Symptoms of bowel obstructions

When stool cannot pass away from your body, you experience the following symptoms:

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating of stomach
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea- stool leakage
  • Severe constipation
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Lack of appetite

When to see a doctor?

If your bowel is obstructed for a day or two then you can try some home remedies to get rid of the temporary constipation. However, if it persists and you experience any of those aforementioned symptoms, then must see a doctor.

What are the complications of bowel obstruction?

  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Perforation in the intestine
  • Dehydration
  • Infection and gangrene
  • Jaundice

Diagnosis of abdominal pain

First your doctor will check your medical history and make sure you let him know the drugs you are taking. He/she will also enquire about your diet and lifestyle.

Your abdomen will be physically examined to feel the bloating and swelling. Subsequently, your bowel sounds may also be checked by placing a stethoscope over your abdomen. There are no bowel sounds (clicking, gurgling, etc.) when it gets obstructed.

Additionally, you may need to undergo other diagnostic tests like

  • Abdominal x ray
  • CT scan of belly
  • Barium enema to find the location of the obstruction
  • Colonoscopy

Treatment of bowel obstruction

There are several lines of treatment for bowel obstruction which obviously depend on the underlying cause:

Piled up gas inside the stomach is removed by inserting a lubricated, flexible tube (nasogastric or NG tube) through the nose into the stomach and intestine. Simultaneously you will be supplied with intravenous fluids. You won’t be allowed to eat and drink during the process.

Medical therapies using fluids and air are also performed to remove partial blockages

Surgery is performed in case of a complete blockage. Other treatment options include treating the primary disorder of the intestine to normalize bowel movement.

You have to remain in the hospital until your condition is cured. Your doctor might suggest a special diet that would suit your intestine and help you to recover quickly post surgery.

Can bowel obstruction be prevented?

To some extent it can be prevented until and unless you have major health issues. Regularizing bowel movement is the key to preventing bowel obstruction and you can achieve this in the following ways:

  • Include dietary fibre everyday in your diet. Have fibrous fruits like prunes, guava, apples, etc. and cruciferous vegetables like spinach, broccoli, etc. Also include fish, legumes and whole grains in your diet
  • Stay away from constipation causing foods like products of refined flour. Check with your doctor what foods to avoid
  • Increase your fluid intake. Have 3-4 litres of water daily
  • Get your body moving with exercises as it smoothes movement of bowel

Bowel obstruction, in most of the cases is completely curable. We suggest you once again to not neglect this problem to avoid undergoing surgery.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 29, 2015