An obstruction of the intestine is a blockage that completely stops or seriously impairs the passage of intestinal contents.

An obstruction may occur anywhere along the small or large intestine. The part of the intestine above the obstruction continues to function.
The intestine enlarges as it fills with food, fluid, digestive secretions, and gas. The intestinal lining becomes swollen and inflamed. If the
condition is not treated, the intestine can rupture, leaking its contents and causing inflammation and infection of the abdominal cavity.

In newborns and infants, intestinal obstruction is commonly caused by a birth defect, a hard mass of intestinal contents (meconium), or a
twisting of a loop of intestine (volvulus).

In adults, an obstruction of the first segment of the small intestine (duodenum) may be caused by cancer of the pancreas; scarring from an
ulcer, a previous operation, or Crohn's disease; or adhesions, in which a fibrous band of connective tissue traps the intestine. An
obstruction also can occur when part of the intestine bulges through an abnormal opening (hernia), such as a weakness in the muscles of
the abdomen, and becomes trapped. Rarely, a gallstone, a mass of undigested food, or a collection of parasitic worms may block the

An obstruction of the large intestine is commonly caused by cancer. Obstruction also tends to occur (as a result of scarring and connective
bands of scar tissue [adhesions]) in people who have previously undergone abdominal surgery. A hard lump of stool (fecal impaction) also
may cause a blockage.

What Causes Intestinal Strangulation?

Intestinal strangulation (cutting off of the blood supply to the intestine) usually results
from one of three causes.
If an obstruction cuts off the blood supply to the intestine, the condition is called strangulation. Strangulation occurs in nearly 25% of people
with small-intestinal obstruction. Usually, strangulation results from the trapping of part of the intestine in an abnormal opening (strangulated
hernia); the twisting of a loop of intestine (volvulus); or the telescoping of a loop of intestine into another loop (intussusception). Gangrene
can develop in as few as 6 hours. With gangrene, the intestinal wall dies, usually causing rupture, which leads to inflammation of the lining
of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) and infection. Without treatment, the person may die.

The pain may become severe and steady. causing shock (see Shock). A doctor examines the abdomen for tenderness. begins later with large-intestinal obstruction than it does with small-intestinal obstruction. while partial obstruction may cause diarrhea. Treatment Anyone suspected of having an intestinal obstruction is hospitalized. especially if caused by scarring or bands of connective tissue (adhesions). which inflates the large intestine. surgery is performed as soon as possible. X-rays may show dilated loops of intestine that indicate the location of the obstruction. a long. often the pain increases when the doctor suddenly releases the pressure (rebound tenderness). or masses. Sometimes fibrous bands can be released. Sometimes an obstruction resolves without further treatment. the sounds normally made by a functioning intestine (bowel sounds). thin tube is passed through the nose and placed in the stomach or intestine. although they tend to recur.Symptoms and Diagnosis Intestinal obstruction usually causes cramping pain in the abdomen. may be much louder and higher pitched. Usually. or they may be absent. Most often. or a barium enema. chloride. and potassium) are given intravenously to replace water and salts lost from vomiting or diarrhea. which can be heard through a stethoscope. accompanied by bloating and disinterest in eating (anorexia). Rupture can rapidly lead to severe inflammation and infection. Vomiting. may be used to treat some disorders. A fever is common and is particularly likely if the intestinal wall ruptures. however. an endoscope (a flexible viewing tube). Air normally is not found in those places and thus is a sign of rupture. which is common. which is advanced through the anus. When an obstruction occurs. The x-rays also may reveal air around the intestine or under the layer of muscle that separates the abdomen and the chest (diaphragm). Occasionally. Fluid and electrolytes (sodium. the person will feel pain when the doctor presses on the abdomen. The cause of the obstruction determines whether the surgeon can relieve the blockage without removing a segment of the intestines. If rupture has caused peritonitis. such as a twisted intestinal segment in the lower part of the large intestine. swelling. . Suction is applied to the tube to remove the material that has accumulated above the blockage. Complete obstruction causes severe constipation.