Bowel Obstruction

  1. Anatomy and physiology of the intestines.


    1. The small intestine is approximately 18 feet long and extends from the stomach to the large intestine.

    2. The large intestine - which is much shorter and wider - ascends up the right side of the abdomen, is horizontal across the abdomen, and descends on the left side of the abdomen.

    3. Digestion and absorption occur in the intestines.


  1. Definition of "bowel obstruction."


  1. When obstruction occurs, intestinal contents, fluids, and gas accumulate.


  1. Factors that increase the risk of bowel obstruction.


  1. Inflammatory disease.

  2. Tumor.

  3. Hernia.

  4. Fecal impaction.

  5. Abdominal surgery.

  6. Embolus.

  7. Atherosclerosis.


  1. Signs and symptoms of bowel obstruction.


    1. Pain:

  1. Colicky pain (mechanical).

  2. Continuous pain (paralytic).

  1. Abdominal distention.

  2. Nausea and vomiting.

  3. Absence of bowel movements.

  4. Electrolyte imbalance.


  1. Possible complications of bowel obstruction.


    1. Lack of blood supply to the bowel (vomiting, increased abdominal distention, pain, fever).

    2. Dehydration (thirst, malaise, dry skin and tongue).

    3. Electrolyte imbalance.

    4. Shock (pulse weak and rapid, low blood pressure, pale clammy skin).