Table of contents:
- Possible symptoms
- How to confirm the diagnosis
- Possible causes of obstruction
- How the treatment is done
- What are the possible risks and complications
Intestinal obstruction is an emergency situation that happens when stool cannot pass through the intestine due to a blockage in its path. In these cases, intestinal symptoms usually appear, such as difficulty in evacuating or eliminating gas, belly swelling, nausea or abdominal pain, which may worsen over time.
Intestinal obstruction prevents the passage of digested food through the intestine and, therefore, feces, intestinal gases and digestive secretions end up accumulating, which increases pressure inside the intestine and the risk of serious complications, such as intestinal perforation, generalized infection, or intestinal tissue death.
Whenever there is a suspicion of an obstruction in the intestine, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately, to confirm the diagnosis and start the treatment, which is usually done with the administration of liquids through the vein, passage of a probe in the digestive tract or surgery, depending on the severity.
The most common symptoms of an intestinal obstruction are:
- Difficulty evacuating or eliminating gases;
- Swelling in the belly;
- Crampy abdominal pain that gets worse over time;
- Decreased appetite;
- Nausea and vomiting.
There are still some cases in which the intestinal obstruction is partial, that is, it still allows the passage of some content. In these cases, there may still be gas elimination and the symptoms may be a little milder, however it is common for abdominal discomfort to be persistent.
The intensity of symptoms varies according to the cause and severity of the disease causing the obstruction. In addition, symptoms can also vary according to the affected site, with vomiting and nausea being more common in small intestine obstruction, while abdominal swelling and constipation are more frequent in large intestine obstruction, for example..
How to confirm the diagnosis
Usually, to identify intestinal obstruction, the doctor starts by evaluating the symptoms and palpating the belly with his hands, to try to identify any changes. You can also use the stethoscope to hear if there are any noises in the belly that indicate if the intestine is working properly or not.
When intestinal obstruction is suspected, at least one diagnostic test, such as radiography or computed tomography, must be performed to confirm the diagnosis and observe where in the intestine the occlusion is.
Possible causes of obstruction
There are many causes that can lead to bowel obstruction, from mechanical causes, where there is a physical obstacle, to functional obstruction, which is when bowel movements are paralyzed.
The main causes include:
- Intestinal bands, which are tissue adhesions to the walls of the intestine, more common in people who have had abdominal surgery. Understand how they form and how to treat abdominal bands;
- Intestinal tumor, mainly in the large intestine. See a list of bowel cancer symptoms;
- Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease;
- Intestinal twist;
- Paralysis of bowel movements, called paralytic ileus, due to metabolic changes such as lack of potassium in the blood;
- Ischemia of the intestine;
- Intestinal endometriosis;
- Accumulation of worms;
- Post-radiation enteritis in cancer treatment;
- Lead poisoning.
Some of these causes can cause a complete and abrupt obstruction of the intestine, generating more severe symptoms, or only a partial obstruction or that happens gradually, when symptoms are milder and there are fewer he alth risks.However, all cases need proper treatment as soon as possible.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for intestinal obstruction varies according to the location and severity of the symptoms and should always be done in the hospital, to avoid the emergence of complications, which can be aggravated if you try to use laxatives at home, for example. example.
In the case of a partial obstruction, with milder symptoms, it may only be necessary to administer fluids into the vein, to improve hydration and facilitate the passage of feces and liquids. In addition, bowel rest should also be done and, therefore, it is necessary to fast until the problem is resolved. Often, a tube is also placed from the nose to the stomach to remove excess gases and liquids, relieving pressure in the intestine.
In more severe cases, as in complete obstruction, in addition to the previous care, surgery is also required to treat the cause and clear the bowel, allowing stool to pass again.
What are the possible risks and complications
Treatment of intestinal obstruction should be started as soon as possible to avoid possible complications such as:
- Intestinal perforation;
- Generalized infection;
- Death of a part of the intestine.
All these complications can be life-threatening as they contribute to inflammation, widespread infection, and multiple organ failure. Thus, whenever there is a suspicion that the intestine is not working properly, medical attention should be sought to identify if there is a problem that needs to be treated.