What is an intestinal obstruction (blocked intestine)?
You have a small intestine and a large intestine. The small intestine is a long coiled tube that connects your stomach to your large intestine. The large intestine is shorter but wider and leads from the end of the small intestine to the rectum. Your intestines receive food and liquids from your stomach. They digest and absorb most of this material. What's left over leaves the body as stool (poop) through the rectum and anus.
The small and large intestines each can become blocked.
The most common causes of a blocked intestine in adults are scar tissue from surgery, hernias, and tumors
Food and fluids can't move through a blocked intestine
Your intestine swells as it fills with food, fluid, and gas
You get crampy belly pain, feel sick to your stomach, and may throw up
Doctors find the blockage with x-rays
You may need surgery to remove the blockage
If not treated, the intestine can break open and cause swelling and infection inside your belly
The Digestive System
What causes a blocked intestine?
In babies, blocked intestines are caused by:
Certain birth defects
Hard meconium (the dark green stool that is made in a baby's intestines before birth)
Twisting of a loop of intestine
A narrow or missing piece of the intestines
An object the baby swallows
In adults, blocked intestines are caused by:
Scar tissue from previous belly surgery
Hard lump of stool
What are the symptoms of a blocked intestine?
Symptoms of a blocked intestine usually include:
Cramping pain in your belly
Not feeling hungry
Not passing stool and gas
Sometimes blood flow to part of the blocked intestine is cut off. If this happens, some of the intestine will die, and you may have:
Severe and steady pain
Fever due to infection
How can doctors tell if I have a blocked intestine?
If doctors suspect a blocked intestine, they usually do:
X-rays Plain X-Rays A plain x-ray is an imaging test that takes a picture of the inside of your body. It uses a low dose of x-ray radiation. X-rays show body parts according to how dense (solid) they are. Doctors... read more and/or a CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more
How do doctors treat a blocked intestine?
Doctors will keep you in the hospital and:
Have you not eat or drink anything
Pass a tube through your nose into your intestine (NG tube) to suck out everything behind the blockage
Give you fluids directly into a vein (IV)
Sometimes the blockage goes away with the suction tube. If it doesn't go away, you may need surgery to fix the blockage.