An intestinal obstruction is a blockage or issue in the intestine that prevents the waste that moves through it from being expelled from the body. Intestinal obstructions are also commonly known as bowel obstructions. They can occur in either the small intestine or the large intestine (the colon) and can be full or partial blockages.
A great deal passes through the intestine on any given day including food, liquids, gastric juices, and gas. When a person has an intestinal obstruction, all of these substances can build up causing pressure. Eventually, with enough pressure buildup, the intestine could rupture causing feces and other substances to leak into the abdominal cavity.
Intestinal obstructions could develop for a wide variety of reasons. Colon cancer is one such potential cause. Other bowel or intestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, or other inflammatory conditions of the bowel and intestines. Adhesions and scar tissue could narrow of constrict the intestines causing an obstruction and sometimes, a mass of stool or even a foreign object could cause an intestinal obstruction.
If a person has an intestinal obstruction, they may experience severe cramps in their abdomen and general abdominal pain especially in the lower abdomen. Vomiting, decreased appetite, and constipation are also symptoms of this condition. Other symptoms include bloating or swelling and being unable to pass gas. If a person is suffering from a partial bowel obstruction, they may also suffer from diarrhea.
Hospitalization is often necessary for an intestinal obstruction because it is such a serious condition. The obstruction needs to be cleared before it causes a serious rupture. Oftentimes, intestinal obstructions can pass without surgery. However, doctors can remove liquid and gas from the intestine using a tube that is threaded through the nose or the mouth. This will relieve pressure while physicians monitor the patient’s condition until the obstruction passes. Surgery may be required with full intestinal obstructions to remove the blockage and any tissue that has been severely damaged or has become necrotic (dead).