Bariatric Surgery

Intestinal Obstruction


An intestinal obstruction is a blockage that prevents food or liquid from passing through your small or large intestine (colon). Without treatment, the blocked parts of the intestine can die, causing serious problems. However, with prompt medical attention, intestinal obstruction can often be successfully treated. A minimally invasive procedure is commonly used to treat gastrointestinal diseases. Unlike traditional intestine surgery, which requires a long incision down the centre of the abdomen, laparoscopic surgery only requires small "keyhole" incisions in the abdomen.

What causes an intestinal blockage?

The following are some of the potential causes of an intestinal blockage:

  • Scarring in the abdomen- These are tissue growths that push your intestines out of place.
  • Hernia - A hernia is a split in the muscle wall of your abdomen. Hernias can cause bulges and pockets. These may cause a blockage in your intestine.
  • Volvulus - This happens when a section of your intestine twists around itself, causing a blockage.
  • Intussusception - In this condition, a section of your intestine slides into another section. This causes your intestine to narrow but not always completely block.
  • Scarring - Scar tissue forms when your body heals minor wounds or cuts. This can also happen inside your intestine. These scars can accumulate and cause partial or complete intestinal blockages. Scarring can occur as a result of intestinal wall tears or infections. These scars, known as adhesions, form in your abdomen following abdominal or pelvic surgery. Adhesions from surgery can sometimes cause problems many years later.
  • Tumors - These growths have the potential to obstruct your intestine.
  • Objects that are swallowed - Nonfood objects that you swallow could cause a partial or complete blockage.
  • Diverticulum Meckel - Few people are born with this extra small pouch inside the intestine.
  • Stricture - An unusual narrowing of a bodily passage (as from inflammation, cancer, or the formation of scar tissue)

Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction:-

The following are signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction:

  • Abdominal cramping that comes and goes
  • Appetite loss
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement
  • Abdominal swollenness

How is a blockage in the intestine diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will consider the following factors when diagnosing your condition:

  • Your overall health as well as your medical history
  • Changes in bowel habits or appetite
  • A physical examination
  • The outcomes of imaging tests such as an abdominal X-ray, a barium contrast study, or a CT scan (computed tomography)
  • The location and severity of any discomfort or pain
  • Any other unusual symptoms, such as digestive sounds or bloating

Risk Factors for Intestinal blockage:

The following diseases and conditions can increase your risk of intestinal obstruction:

  • Abdominal cancer
  • Abdominal surgery, which can increase the risk of scar tissue or other growths.
  • Diverticulosis, a condition that can cause inflammation, infection, scarring, and blockage of the intestine.
  • Scars from things like radiation damage or Crohn's disease

Treatment for Intestinal Blockage:

The treatment for your intestinal blockage will be determined by the cause.

Many blockages will dissolve on their own with supportive care. It is best to avoid surgery because it can sometimes result in more scarring. Your doctor may advise you to avoid eating or limit yourself to clear liquids until your symptoms improve. Following this, a "low-residue" diet may be recommended to try to get things moving. This diet includes foods and liquids such as yoghurt that will not contribute to the blockage. Instead of more invasive surgery, your healthcare provider may use a small, flexible tube to remove intestinal contents until the bowel blockage is cleared. You will require IV (intravenous) fluids as well as electrolyte replacement. You may also require pain medication.

If your intestine is completely blocked (no food or stool can pass through), you will require immediate surgery. The goal is to clear the obstruction and repair your organs.

If the blockage is caused by a hernia, your provider may recommend that the hernia be repaired.

If the blockage is caused by inflammation, such as Crohn's disease, your provider may recommend medications to treat the disease.

Strictures, Benign Tumours, and Meckel’s diverticulum are the common conditions that require surgery for small intestine.

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