Bowel Obstruction


If you’re unable to have a bowel movement or pass gas, you may have something blocking your small or large intestine. This is more than constipation. A bowel obstruction keeps food and fluid from passing through normally. If enough food, fluid and gas build up behind the obstruction, your intestine can rupture, causing a life-threatening situation.

There are several things that can block your intestine:

  • Tumors
  • Scar tissue or adhesions that form after abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Twisting or narrowing of the intestines
  • Hernias
  • Crohn’s disease or inflamed intestine
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Diverticulitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Symptoms can include cramping, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloating, constipation (full blockage) or diarrhea (partial blockage).

If you have constant, severe pain, call your doctor immediately. It could be an emergency if the blood supply has been cut off or if there’s a hole in your intestines.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Bowel Obstruction

Your doctor will likely start with a physical exam to check your belly for swelling and tenderness. You may also have an abdominal X-ray or a CT scan, which can help find a blockage and determine how severe it is.

Many cases of bowel obstruction are treatable. Depending on the blockage, there are a few treatment options.

Intravenous (IV) Medication

While you’re getting the IV, your doctor may run a small, flexible tube called a nasogastric (NG) tube through your nose and down into your stomach. This should help keep you comfortable by removing fluid and gas and alleviating pressure.

Enemas or stents

If the NG tube doesn’t help you push the blockage through, you may need additional treatment. That could include a liquid or air enema or a stent (small mesh tube) to clear out the blockage.


If your intestine is totally blocked or if blood supply has been cut off, you will likely need surgery.

Regardless of the severity of your blockage, you can rest assured Mercy is ready to care for you. You and your gastroenterologist will work together to develop a treatment plan so you can get back to living life to the fullest as fast as possible.

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