Adhesions, impactions, tumors and more can cause bowel obstructions. What are the symptoms and why are they medical emergencies?
Publish 17 March 2022
During my morning walk, I saw one of my former school friends, Darla. I felt conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety. She was vomiting on the roadside. After getting her to sit on the curb, I ran back to get my car and rushed her to the hospital.
En route, she told me that she had severe belly pain and cramps. I was worried and wanted to reach the hospital as soon as possible. After the triage, a gastroenterology doctor met us in the emergency room.
Bowel Obstruction Diagnosis
She told the gastroenterologist that she could not pass stools and had severe abdominal pain. It was obvious that she had some digestive system issues. She was laying on the exam table, writhing in pain. With consent, the doctor examined her abdomen, which was swollen and painful to the touch. The doctor asked her the following questions:
- What is the location and intensity of the pain?
- Have you had this before?
- Do you feel any unusual sounds from your belly?
- Has there been a change in bowel movements and appetite?
Following the examination, the physician concluded that Darla had a bowel obstruction. A gastroenterologist can distinguish this from irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease. He prescribed an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes of Bowel Obstructions
Darla asked the doctor what causes bowel obstruction? The physician replied, in this case, it is an inguinal hernia. He also told her some other causes of dangerous bowel obstructions.
- Abdominal scarring forms abnormal tissues and blocks the intestine.
- Volvulus is the twisting of the intestine, which results in blockage.
- Intussusception is a condition in which one segment of the intestine folds onto the other and blocks it.
- Scar tissues result after some injury within the intestine. When the body heals itself, scars form, and these scars then partially or completely block the intestine.
- Tumors that result from the abnormal division of tissues can also block the intestine.
- Non-food objects that you mistakenly swallow also cause full or partial blockage.
The physician also mentioned some illnesses that lead to bowel obstruction. This includes abdominal surgery, appendicitis, and Crohn’s disease, which thickens the intestinal wall. Also, Parkinson’s disease, Hirschsprung’s, and abdominal cancer can lead to obstructions.
Treatment For Bowel Obstruction
With Darla’s permission, I asked the doctor about further steps to treat this condition. The gastroenterologist said that the treatment of bowel obstruction depends on the severity of the condition. In Darla’s case, the doctor prescribed some medication. For severe digestive system issues, there are several treatment options:
- Nasogastric tube passes from the nose into the stomach and removes the fluid or gas trapped inside intestines. This procedure relieves the pain.
- Surgery removes the blocked section of the intestine or to widen the narrow section.
- Therapeutic enema is necessary in the case of severe constipation to remove the stool impaction.
When Bowl Obstruction is Dangerous
Darla asked the doctor, “When is the bowel obstruction dangerous?” The doctor told her that it would be an emergency case when the intestine is completely closed. In that instance, surgery is the only option doctors have. The gastroenterologist further added that such patients should get to the hospital as soon as possible. It is a life-threatening emergency.
Preventing Bowel Obstruction
The doctor’s statement scared us. Darla asked for preventive measures. The doctor excused himself to see another emergency patient. After 30 minutes, the doctor came back and continued the conversation. He told us that the other gastroenterology emergency had a dangerous bowel obstruction.
Darla asked if the patient was all right. The doctor said that case was more serious and the patient arrived too late. This news put both of us in shock. After some time, I again asked for preventative measures. The doctor listed the following tips:
- Healthy choices in food will help to prevent bowel obstruction.
- Regular light exercise will maintain the digestive system.
- To relieve constipation, keep laxatives or stool softeners in the cabinet.
- Relax while passing stools because stress tightens the sphincters and hinders passage.
Arrangements were made for a followup visit. After this, Darla thanked the doctor for treating her nicely and providing so much information. I then drove Darla home. A few days later, I phoned her to see how she was doing and told her about this blog. She gave permission to share her story if I change her name. Hopefully, this information impresses upon you the seriousness of a bowel obstruction.