Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

In intestinal pseudo-obstruction, foods and liquids are unable to pass through the intestine, causing a build-up of food, fluid, and gas in all or part of the colon. The symptoms of this condition act like a mechanical bowel obstruction, but no blockage is found when doctors examine the intestine.

The Intestines

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Causes

Intestinal pseudo-obstruction is caused by problems with the muscles and nerves of the intestine.

Risk Factors

The following factors are thought to increase the risk of developing intestinal pseudo-obstruction:

  • Surgery
  • Abdominal hemorrhage
  • Intestinal ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the digestive system)
  • Inflammation (eg, infection)
  • Trauma
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic problems
  • Fluid overload (eg, congestive heart failure)
  • Other medical illnesses associated with pain
  • Certain medications

Symptoms

Symptoms of intestinal pseudo-obstruction may include:

  • Cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Reduction in bowel movements
  • Loose stools
  • Bladder problems

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Images may be taken of your body structures. This can be done with:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Nutritional Support

IV feeding may be necessary to help prevent malnutrition.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent bacterial infections due to your condition. In addition, medications can be used to treat muscle problems in the intestines. Changes in your medications may be made to eliminate some medications that can slow recovery from, or worsen, this condition.

Surgery

In severe cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction, surgery to remove part or your entire intestine may be necessary.

Endoscopy

If the colon does not resume normal function after conservative management, the pressure build-up in the colon can be relieved by removing the trapped air with a colonoscope.

Prevention

Many cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction cannot be prevented. But certain measures can be taken after surgery to help avoid the complication of intestinal pseudo-obstruction. These measures include:

  • Early oral feeding
  • Gum chewing
  • Fluid restriction
  • Medications that inhibit opioid receptors
  • Beta-blockers