DESCRIPTIONIntestinal obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the intestines. Both the small and large intestines are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to remove the obstruction (usually).
Hospitalization for diagnosis and replacement of lost fluids prior to surgery.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSAbdominal pain and cramps.
Nausea and vomiting. In the advanced stage, vomit resembles feces.
Weakness, dizziness, or fainting.
Little or no urine, due to fluid loss.
Audible noises from the abdomen in early stages. Later, no sounds are audible.
Abdominal bloating, swelling, and gas.
Diarrhea (partial obstruction only).
Rectal bleeding (sometimes).
CAUSESAdhesions (constricting bands of fibrous tissue that result from previous surgery).
Intestinal inflammation or tumors--either benign or cancerous.
Tumors in adjacent organs that cause pressure on the intestines.
Foreign objects inside the intestines (swallowed objects, or parasites such as worms).
Twisted bowel (volvulus, See Glossary).
Severe constipation (fecal impaction).
Previous abdominal surgery.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Encourage your child to eat a diet high in fiber and to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of liquid a day to avoid constipation or fecal impaction.
Obtain prompt medical treatment for repair of hernias.
See your doctor if your child's bowel habits change significantly for longer than 7 days. This may be an early symptom of bowel cancer.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood studies to measure fluids and electrolytes and to detect bleeding or infection.
X-rays of the intestinal tract and abdomen (upper and lower GI series).
Dehydration and shock.
Surgery can usually correct the obstruction, but it may not correct the underlying cause, such as cancer. Without treatment, complications can be fatal.
Intestinal obstruction usually develops rapidly into an emergency. Home remedies are of no value and some--such as enemas or laxatives -- may be harmful to your child.
MEDICATIONMedication is not helpful for intestinal obstruction. However, your doctor may prescribe medication appropriate for the underlying disorder.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should rest in bed until the obstruction is corrected. If surgery is necessary, the child can resume normal activities gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
Don't give the child anything to eat until the obstruction is corrected. There will probably be intravenous nourishment given until then.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child's bowel habits change.
Your child has early symptoms of intestinal obstruction.