About Bowel Obstruction
Bowel obstructions are characterized by blockages in the small or large intestine. These blockages make it difficult for food, fluid, and gas to move throughout the digestive tract and colon. Also called intestinal obstructions, blockages of the bowels can range in severity from mild to severe with severe cases often requiring immediate treatment in a hospital setting. The blockages can occur inside or outside of the intestines, and they have a wide range of potential causes, including tumors as a result of colon cancer. Bowel obstructions can be either partial or full with partial blockages typically leading to diarrhea while full blockages often result in constipation. This condition may begin suddenly or progress over time. At Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery, our skilled team of colorectal surgeons will work to understand your symptoms, diagnose, and treat your bowel obstruction. If you've experienced abnormal symptoms, like abdominal pain, vomiting, cramping, or bouts of constipation or diarrhea, contact one of our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices.
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Signs and Symptoms
You may notice a range of painful or distressing symptoms if you're suffering from a bowel obstruction. The signs and experiences you have will vary, depending on where the obstruction exists (small or large intestine) and whether the blockage is partial or full. If you have an intestinal blockage, you may notice the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting and nausea
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea (if the intestine is partially blocked)
- Constipation (if the intestine is fully blocked)
Since many of these symptoms can present themselves in other medical conditions as well, it's important to have your health checked by an experienced colon and rectal specialist. Our team of board-certified surgeons will be able to diagnose your issue and provide you with advanced and effective treatment.
What to Expect
The cause of your blockage can vary based on your age, as well as where the blockage exists. Intestinal blockages can be common among babies, but an infant's condition will not always mirror that of an adult. If a man or woman has a bowel obstruction in the large intestine, it could be a result of a tumor (usually caused by colon cancer), diverticulitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. Meanwhile, blockages in the small intestine can occur as a result of Crohn's disease or scar tissue left behind from a trauma, surgery, or a twisting of the digestive tract.
When you arrive at our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices experiencing signs of bowel obstruction, our skilled colon and rectal surgeons will begin your consultation by asking detailed questions about your medical history and conducting a physical examination. During your physical assessment, we will feel and listen to your abdomen. Certain abdominal sounds can indicate particular issues or conditions so depending on what is heard, we may be able to narrow down what is causing your symptoms.
After your physical assessment, we will take an abdominal x-ray or CT scan to observe the internal structures of your large and small intestine so a blockage can be identified. We may also perform a colonoscopy if the blockage is in the large intestine. From there, we will be able to determine if you have a bowel obstruction, its underlying cause, and formulate a treatment plan to restore your quality of life, as well as your bowel functions.
Treatment for bowel obstruction will vary, depending on the cause, severity, and location of the blockage. While most cases of intestinal blockages are addressed in a hospital setting, some milder instances may be remedied with prescription stool softener medications. The most common solutions for bowel obstructions of the large and small intestine is intestinal decompression or various surgeries. Intestinal decompression is performed with a nasogastric (NG) tube, which is inserted through the nose and is able to displace the source of the blockage. This option works best for patients whose obstruction is caused by stool. However, if a tumor, scars, or adhesions are causing your blockage, or if your condition has progressed to the point of leaving behind necrotic (dead tissue), surgery may be your best alternative. Surgical treatment could involve removing a cancerous tumor, resectioning the bowels, or removing damaged tissue.
Recovery from a bowel obstruction can be lengthy. You may be required to stay in the hospital for several days so our team can monitor your condition and ensure your health. For the first few days, you will rely on IV fluids for food. When you are permitted to eat, your diet will improve gradually over time. Before you're released to continue your recovery at home, a member of our team will provide you with detailed post-op instructions, as well as inform you of certain medications you will need to avoid until you are fully healed. You should attend all planned follow-up visits at our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices.
Correct Intestinal Blockages
Bowel obstructions are often serious conditions that can cause a range of painful and unpleasant side effects. To seek treatment for your medical issue and relief from abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea, contact the board-certified team of surgeons at Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery at one of our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices. Our team will work with you to restore your bowel function and improve your quality of life.