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Intestinal Obstruction

What is Intestinal Obstruction?

Intestinal obstruction is blockage of the inside of the intestines by an actual mechanical obstruction. Some causes include adhesions (scar tissue), foreign bodies, intussusception, ischemia (decreased blood supply), hernias, volvulus (twisting) or tumors. As blockage occurs gas and air distend the bowel proximal (closest) to the blockage. As the process continues, gastric (stomach), bilious (bile from the liver used in digestion) and pancreatic secretions (secretions from the pancreas used for digestion) begin to form a pool. Water, electrolytes and proteins accumulate in the area. This pooling and bowel distention decrease the circulating blood volume and the blood supply to the bowel tissue. Strangulation of a bowel segment may cause necrosis (death of the tissue), perforation (a hole), and loss of fluid and blood. Since intestinal contents can't go downstream from the stomach, nausea and vomiting occur in most patients.

What is Ileus?

Ileus is a functional rather than mechanical obstruction of the bowel. It is a lack of propulsive peristalsis (wave-like movement) of the bowel. It stops the movement of bowel contents downward. There is abdominal distention and an absence of bowel sounds. Ileus may be the result of anesthesia, interruption of nerve supply to the bowel, intestinal ischemia (obstruction of circulation), abdominal wound infections, electrolyte imbalance (loss of potassium leads to lack of intestinal peristalsis) or metabolic diseases. The result of ileus is the distention of the bowel with gas and fluid. The process is similar to obstruction. Your nurse or pediatric surgeon will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Contact Us

University of Texas Health Science Center Professional Building
Department of Pediatric Surgery

6410 Fannin Street, Suite 950
Houston, Texas 77030

Phone: (832) 325-7234

Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday-Friday except major holidays)

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This information, although based on a thorough knowledge and careful review of current medical literature, is the opinion of doctors at The University of Texas Medical School and is presented to inform you about surgical conditions. It is not meant to contradict any information you may receive from your personal physician and should not be used to make decisions about surgical treatment. If you have any questions about the information above or your child's care, please contact our doctors.