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Intestinal obstruction


Intestinal obstruction corresponds to a stopping of intestinal transit. It can be localized in the small intestine or colon and can be due to:
  • a lack of muscle contractions in the intestine, often neurological, inflammation or infection, pain or the consequences of an operation;
  • a torsion or strangulation in part of the digestive tract;
  • an obstruction of the lumen by a tumor, or a compression by an external structure.

Intestinal obstruction requires urgent hospitalization, and depending on its type, is treated by drug, endoscopic or surgical therapy. Without fast action, it can lead to complications, such as:
  • severe metabolic disorders (dehydration, heart disease, kidney failure ...)
  • perforation of the intestine and infection of the peritoneal cavity by the germs in the digestive tract: peritonitis;
  • necrosis of part of a digestive organ;
  • shock.


Intestinal obstruction is manifested by a combination of events, namely:
  • abdominal pain, often violent and sudden in onset;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • a lack of gas emissions;
  • a lack of bowel movements;
  • distension of the bowel due to gas accumulation (abdominal distension).

Following the order in which symptoms appear, involving either the small intestine or the colon, the cause can be determined.


Clinical examination with the practice of abdominal palpation and rectal examination, are usually followed by additional tests such as:
  • an X-ray of the stomach to see areas called air-fluid levels, whose presence is more in favor of a colonic or lower intestinal origin.
  • an abdominal CT scan to locate more precisely the obstacle and determine its type;
  • blood tests searching for signs in the presence of which the patient will be directed to the rehabilitation.


Treatment depends on:
  • the origin of the intestinal obstruction;
  • the location;
  • the severity of the obstruction.

Occlusion by strangulation usually requires emergency care to remove the twist. In the case of obstacles, a surgical treatment or an enema can be performed.

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