In intestinal pseudo-obstruction, foods and liquids are unable to pass through the intestine, causing a build-up of food, fluid, and gas in all or part of the colon. The symptoms of this condition act like
mechanical bowel obstruction
, but no blockage is found when doctors examine the intestine.
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Intestinal pseudo-obstruction is caused by problems with the muscles and nerves of the intestine.
The following factors are thought to increase the risk of developing intestinal pseudo-obstruction:
- Abdominal hemorrhage
- Intestinal ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the digestive system)
- Inflammation (eg, infection)
- Metabolic problems
Fluid overload (eg,
congestive heart failure
- Other medical illnesses associated with pain
- Certain medications
Symptoms of intestinal pseudo-obstruction may include:
- Stomach pain
- Reduction in bowel movements
- Loose stools
- Bladder problems
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your body structures. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
IV feeding may be necessary to help prevent malnutrition.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent bacterial infections due to your condition. In addition, medications can be used to treat muscle problems in the intestines. Changes in your medications may be made to eliminate some medications that can slow recovery from, or worsen, this condition.
In severe cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction, surgery to remove part or your entire intestine may be necessary.
If the colon does not resume normal function after conservative management, the pressure build-up in the colon can be relieved by removing the trapped air with a
Many cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction cannot be prevented. But certain measures can be taken after surgery to help avoid the complication of intestinal pseudo-obstruction. These measures include:
- Early oral feeding
- Gum chewing
- Fluid restriction
- Medications that inhibit opioid receptors
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Canadian Society of Intestinal Research
Colonic ileus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated July 12, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.
Intestinal pseudo-obstruction. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
Updated February 26, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.