Anatomy and physiology of the intestines.
The small intestine is approximately 18 feet long and extends from the stomach to the large intestine.
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.
Digestion and absorption occur in the intestines.
Definition of "bowel obstruction."
It is a blockage preventing the bowel from passing normally through the intestines and can occur in either the large or small intestine.
There are two basic types of obstruction:
Mechanical obstruction occurs when something physically stops the passage of fecal contents (may be caused by tumors, adhesions, hernias, etc.).
Paralytic obstruction is the cessation of peristalsis (may be caused by trauma, infection, surgery, etc.).
When obstruction occurs, intestinal contents, fluids, and gas accumulate.
Factors that increase the risk of bowel obstruction.
Signs and symptoms of bowel obstruction.
Colicky pain (mechanical).
Continuous pain (paralytic).
Nausea and vomiting.
Absence of bowel movements.
Possible complications of bowel obstruction.
Lack of blood supply to the bowel (vomiting, increased abdominal distention, pain, fever).
Dehydration (thirst, malaise, dry skin and tongue).
Shock (pulse weak and rapid, low blood pressure, pale clammy skin).