Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction

November 12, 2012

Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction

Digestive problems can be very uncomfortable and unhealthy. People with an intestinal pseudo obstruction often need medical intervention to feel better.

When the items you consume are not able to move through your body, it can become very noticeable, very fast. An intestinal pseudo obstruction occurs when part of your intestinal tract is unable to adequately contract. The loss of this motion makes it difficult for the muscles to move stool, food, or air through the length of the intestine. One of the major problems with this condition is that there is often no sign of a physical blockage which makes it hard to pinpoint a successful cause and treatment.

Pseudo Obstruction Causes

This particular intestinal disorder is idiopathic which means there is no known cause for the pseudo obstruction. People of all ages can suffer from it. The affliction can be chronic or acute and sometimes returns after initial treatment. There are a number of risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing the condition:

  • It commonly affects senior citizens or young children

  • Patients with nervous system disorders such as cerebral palsy

  • Strong pain medications taken over long periods of time

  • Being non-ambulatory or bedridden for an extended period of time

If a person shows symptoms of having an obstruction, there are a series of tests which can be performed in an attempt to verify a diagnosis. Doctors may order an esophageal manometry, x-rays, intestinal scans, or a barium swallow/enema test.

Common Symptoms

Because an intestinal pseudo obstruction interferes with the digestive process, many of the signs and symptoms exhibited are related to the inability of food and air to easily get through the intestinal tract. Some things you may experience are:

  • Constipation from the inability to move digested items and stool out of the gastrointestinal tract

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Problems with swallowing food and drinks

  • Malnutrition

The effects on the body are often proportional to the severity of the intestinal obstruction.

Treating Obstructions

Once a diagnosis of intestinal pseudo obstruction is made, patients have access to a variety of treatment options. Acute cases will often clear up a couple of days after the start of treatment. Chronic sufferers may have it clear up and then return at a later date. It may be necessary to attempt a different treatment method if the problem continues to return:

  • Colonoscopy- This procedure is ideal for the removal of trapped air from the intestine.

  • Supplements- In many cases, the use of a special diet is an ineffective treatment. The use of vitamins and B12 supplements can help with malnutrition problems.

  • IV fluids- Fluids may be given in cases where a person has become dehydrated from excessive diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Prescription medications- Neostigmine is a medication that can be used for large intestine blockages.

  • Nasogastric suction- The suction can be used to decompress the intestines. Tubing runs from the nose to the stomach and will pull out excess air.

  • Surgery- This is saved for severe cases where the blockage is cannot be removed by other methods.


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