A bowel obstruction is when a section of the bowels (small or large intestines) is blocked. This could be a partial blockage or a complete blockage to where stool is not able to pass by the obstruction.
Bowel obstructions can be caused by the following conditions:
Symptoms of a bowel obstruction include absence of stool or gas due to the blockage, where only liquids may pass (if not completely blocked, if completely blocked liquids may not pass either). This will be accompanied by intense pain and cramping, fullness or bloating in the abdomen area.
A bowel obstruction can only be diagnosed through a physical exam and diagnostic tests. A physical exam may include listening for bowel sounds including irregular gurgling and click or a high pitched sound heard through a stethoscope. In some cases, there will be a complete lack of sounds which also indicates bowel obstruction. They will do an x-ray to look for a blockage. IF neither of these determine the blockage they may do a barium enema, or upper GI. Lastly a CT scan on your bowels may be done to determine the obstruction area.
Treating an obstruction varies on the blockage, but usually is done in the hospital. Typically they will attempt to decompress the intestines and if that does not work, surgery may be required.
Not treating a bowel obstruction timely can lead to further complications including perforation of the intestines as your muscles may continue to attempt o pass material and/or as accumulation of material builds near the blockage. There are also been death reported due to infection in or around the blockage.