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Intestinal obstruction

  • Alternative Names

    Paralytic ileus; Intestinal volvulus; Bowel obstruction; Ileus; Pseudo-obstruction - intestinal; Colonic ileus


    Treatment involves placing a tube through the nose into the stomach or intestine to help relieve abdominal distention and vomiting.

    Surgery may be needed to relieve the obstruction if the tube does not relieve the symptoms, or if there are signs of tissue death.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The outcome varies with the cause of the obstruction.


    Complications may include or may lead to:

    • Electrolyte imbalances
    • Infection
    • Jaundice
    • Perforation (hole) in the intestine

    If the obstruction blocks the blood supply to the intestine, the tissue may die, causing infection and gangrene. Risk factors for tissue death include intestinal cancer, Crohn's disease, hernia, and previous abdominal surgery.

    In the newborn, paralytic ileus that is associated with destruction of the bowel wall (necrotizing enterocolitis) is life-threatening and may lead to blood and lung infections.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if persistent abdominal distention develops and you are unable to pass stool or gas, or if other symptoms of intestinal obstruction develop.