Symptoms of an intestinal obstruction


The intestinal obstruction is also used in medical terminology Ileus called. It causes a number of unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. Due to the obstruction of the intestinal passage, feces accumulate in the intestine. An intestinal obstruction often needs to be treated surgically.

Read more on the subject at: This is how you can recognize an intestinal obstruction

Symptoms of intestinal obstruction

The different symptoms of an intestinal obstruction are listed below:

  • Constipation / stool retention
    Constipation refers to a difficult defecation less than three times a week. Since there is an interruption in the intestinal passage in the case of an intestinal obstruction, stool retention typically occurs. The stool remains in the intestine and cannot be excreted. If the intestinal obstruction occurs, the affected person may have to vomit faeces, as the faeces cannot be excreted with the stool.
  • Bloated stomach
    A bloated stomach occurs with an intestinal obstruction due to massive stool retention. The chyme that was ingested with the food and, if necessary, is still ingested, remains in the intestine and is not excreted. The intestinal bacteria process the stool and form gases such as methane. The gases collect in the intestines and cause a bloated stomach (distended abdomen). The medical term for the increased accumulation of gas is meteorism.
  • No escape of intestinal gases
    Bacteria that occur naturally in the intestines process the stool and produce gases (methane) in the process. In healthy people, the gases are released in the form of flatulence. If a mechanical bowel closure causes a bloated stomach (meteorism), the gases cannot escape because the intestinal passage is blocked. In the case of an intestinal obstruction, there is no discharge of stool and intestinal gases and the stomach expands massively.
  • Crampy abdominal pain / colic
    The cardinal symptom of an intestinal obstruction is colicky stomach pain. "Colic-like" means that the abdominal pain occurs like contractions, but independent of movement. The abdominal pain is extremely painful and is caused by spasmodic contractions (contraction of the muscles) of the intestinal muscles, as the intestine tries to empty the intestinal contents against resistance. Those affected have intervals in which they feel no pain at all, which in turn is followed by excruciatingly painful cramps.
  • Vomit
    Symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of intestinal obstruction. First, the stomach contents are vomited. As the disease progresses, vomiting of stool or bile (miserere) may occur. The cause of vomiting feces is the retroperistalsis of the intestine. For a while the intestine tries to empty the intestinal contents against the resistance. Due to the intestinal obstruction, bowel movements are not possible, so that after a certain time the bowel works in the opposite direction. Ultimately, this leads to vomiting of contents from the large intestine in an advanced stage of an intestinal obstruction.
  • Peritonitis
    Peritonitis can develop as a result of an untreated intestinal obstruction. Peritonitis can develop, for example, when germs get through the intestinal wall into the abdominal cavity, because the outer layer of the intestinal wall is mechanically damaged by the diseased filling. Another possible cause of peritonitis as a result of an intestinal obstruction is an intestinal rupture. In the case of an ileus, the intestine can accumulate massively and even tear (rupture). If intestinal bacteria and stool get into the abdominal cavity, the peritoneum becomes inflamed. Peritonitis requires immediate treatment as it can be fatal.
  • Circulatory shock
    A bowel obstruction can cause circulatory shock. Due to the behavior of the intestine and the amount of feces in the intestine, fluid flows from the cells into the intestinal tube. This means that the body loses fluid. At the same time, the body loses fluids and electrolytes as a result of vomiting. Over time, a desiccosis develops, a severe dehydration. As a result of dehydration and the loss of electrolytes, the affected person can suffer from circulatory shock.

Read more on this topic at: These are the signs of a bowel obstruction

Symptoms of intestinal obstruction in the baby

In the early stages of an intestinal obstruction, the baby can develop watery, slimy diarrhea. These are the liquid stool residues that slip past the intestinal obstruction, the "blockage". A bowel obstruction causes abdominal pain. In a baby, abdominal pain can manifest itself as increased crying and restlessness. Babies often pull up their legs when they experience abdominal pain. The stomach pain is usually colic-like. This means that they occur acutely and are relapsed. If you feel the baby's stomach, it is hard and it hurts when you press it. Another clue is loss of appetite. A bowel obstruction also causes vomiting. First of all, the babies vomit the food they last consumed from the stomach. With a complete intestinal obstruction, the baby will eventually vomit feces as it cannot be excreted in the normal way. At an advanced stage, the baby can develop pale, cold sweaty skin. These symptoms can be signs of fear or a state of shock.

Read more on the topic: Intestinal obstruction in the baby

Symptoms of intestinal obstruction in the child

The intestinal obstruction in children is a dangerous disease in the abdomen. An incomplete intestinal obstruction is when there is a narrowing (so-called stenosis) in the intestine. A complete obstruction of the bowel is called an ileus. It is often caused by an unwanted invagination, a so-called invagination, of the intestine. The small intestine usually everts into the appendix or large intestine. An intestinal obstruction is dangerous in that the digested food pulp can no longer pass through the intestinal tract.

An intestinal obstruction is a life-threatening situation in both children and adults that requires immediate medical intervention. The condition is so dangerous because the food can no longer be transported to the rectum, so that germs and the intestinal contents themselves get through the intestinal wall into the abdominal cavity and there can cause life-threatening inflammation of the abdominal cavity or even peritonitis (so-called peritonitis). An untreated intestinal obstruction can lead to death.

Diagnosing intestinal obstruction in children

The intestinal obstruction in children is also diagnosed by palpation on the abdomen, paying particular attention to the immune tension typical of inflammation, i.e. the involuntary tension of the abdominal wall when touched. Listening to it can also be informative, so missing bowel noises can be an indication of a crippling bowel obstruction. The doctor also uses imaging methods such as X-rays, ultrasound or computed tomography. Blood tests, in which the number of white blood cells is checked, are also useful, as an increase in this number above normal is an important indicator of an inflammatory process in the body (but it does not necessarily have to take place in the intestines).

Therapy of intestinal obstruction in children

The therapy of an intestinal obstruction in the child is usually gentle if possible; a massage or enemas can be considered. It is hoped that this will help reverse the invagination of the small intestine that triggers the intestinal obstruction. Antibiotics are often given as medication to prevent bacteria from spreading in the abdominal cavity. In acute cases, however, children may need an operation to remove the obstacle (such as a tumor) or to loosen the tangle.

Please also read: Everything you need to know about intestinal obstruction surgery

Mechanical or debilitating bowel obstruction

There are two different types of intestinal obstruction: mechanical intestinal obstruction and crippling intestinal obstruction. With mechanical bowel obstruction, the involuntary bowel movement (so-called peristalsis), which transports the digested food residues towards the rectum, still takes place. However, it is severely restricted by obstacles in the intestine, and the food cannot be transported further. With regard to these obstacles, one speaks of obturations if they lie inside the intestine, e.g. foreign bodies, worms, or large gallstones. Obstructions are used when the obstacle to bowel movement lies outside the bowel itself, e.g. when a tumor growing in the abdominal cavity reduces the diameter of the intestine from the outside. In the worst case, a mechanical intestinal obstruction can be caused by so-called strangulation (a constriction), which is understood to mean an interruption or even a complete absence of the blood supply. This is the most severe variant of mechanical ileus, as in this case the section of the intestine that is no longer supplied with blood can die off completely within a few hours. This can be triggered by intussusception or abdominal wall fractures (so-called hernias, including the well-known “inguinal hernia”).

The paralyzing (so-called. paralyticBowel obstruction is when there is a complete interruption of bowel movement. In the case of a paralyzing intestinal obstruction, the interior of the intestine is still open, but there is simply no movement. The causes for this can be different and range from metabolic disorders (e.g. after kidney failure) to blunt abdominal injuries (such as after a blow to the abdominal area) to a so-called mesenteric infarction (obstruction of the artery that supplies the intestine with blood).

The symptoms can often not be clearly assigned to a mechanical or a paralyzing ileus. Most of the time those affected suffer from severe, colicky cramps. This is understood to mean labor-like pain, in which phases of violent attacks alternate with brief freedom from pain. Indications of an intestinal obstruction are also a distended abdominal wall and the absence of a bowel movement. Under certain circumstances, symptoms can range up to vomiting of the stool.

The intestinal obstruction in children is also not easy to recognize symptomatically, as children tend to complain of abdominal pain and malaise with a wide variety of complaints. In children, too, it manifests itself as a stomachache as well as paleness and cold sweat. The child is very restless and anxious. The colicky pain is typical here too. A great difficulty with the child is that, depending on the child's development of expressiveness, the way in which the complaints are communicated and precisely described can vary greatly.