Bowel Obstruction: Signs, Symptoms, and Emergency Management

Bowel Obstruction: Signs, Symptoms, and Emergency Management

by Dr. Samrat Jankar

Posted on 13th March, 2024 at 3:18:22 AM

Bowel obstruction is a severe medical condition that needs quick recognition and intervention. Dr. Samrat Jankar is a distinguished gastroenterologist in Pune with extensive experience in the diagnosis and management of gastrointestinal disorders. sheds light on this topic to help individuals understand its signs, symptoms, and the crucial steps in emergency management. He is committed to raising awareness about bowel obstruction and providing expert care to patients in need.

What is Bowel Obstruction?

Bowel obstruction happens when there is a blockage in the intestine, preventing the normal passage of digested food, fluids, and gas. This blockage can happen at any point along the digestive tract, from the small intestine to the large intestine (colon). Several aspects can contribute to bowel obstruction, including adhesions, hernias, tumors, and inflammatory bowel disease(IBD).

Signs and Symptoms:

Abdominal Pain: Intense, crampy abdominal pain is a hallmark sign of bowel obstruction. The pain may be periodic or constant and can worsen over time.

Distension: Patients often experience abdominal bloating and distension due to the assemblage of gas and fluid above the site of obstruction.

Vomiting: Persistent vomiting, occasionally accompanied by bile or fecal matter, is common in bowel obstruction. It happens as the body attempts to expel the contents trapped in the intestines.

Constipation or Absence of Bowel Movements: Bowel obstruction commonly leads to a lack of bowel movements or constipation, as the blockage prevents the passage of stool.

Inability to Pass Gas: Patients may find it difficult or impossible to pass gas, indicating a disturbance in the normal digestive process.

Abdominal Tenderness: Upon examination, the abdomen may be tender to touch, specifically in the area near the site of obstruction.

Decreased or Absent Bowel Sounds: During physical examination, healthcare providers may notice decreased or missing bowel sounds, showing a lack of intestinal activity.

Dehydration: Symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, and reduced urination can happen due to vomiting and inability to absorb fluids.

Emergency Management:

If you experience any of the above symptoms, specifically severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and inability to pass gas or stool, seek prompt medical attention. Early diagnosis and quick intervention are important in managing bowel obstruction and preventing complications.

Bowel obstruction typically needs hospitalization for evaluation and treatment. Dr. Samrat Jankar says relying on the severity and cause, various approaches may be taken:

Diagnostic Tests: Dr. Samrat Jankar performs a physical examination and may order diagnostic tests such as abdominal X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and determine the rigor of the obstruction.

Fluid Resuscitation: Intravenous fluids are administered to fix dehydration and electrolyte imbalances resulting from vomiting and fluid loss.

Nasogastric Tube Insertion: A nasogastric tube is inserted through the nose and into the stomach to relax the intestines by releasing excess gas and fluid.

Pain Management: Analgesics may be administered to relieve abdominal pain and discomfort.

Surgical Intervention: In cases of complete or complicated bowel obstruction, surgical intervention may be required to remove the blockage and restore normal bowel function.

Observation and Monitoring: Patients with partial or fixed bowel obstruction may be observed in the hospital for symptoms of improvement or progression.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe and ongoing abdominal pain
  • Vomiting, especially if bloody
  • Inability to pass stool or gas
  • Dehydration, such as dizziness, weakness, or decreased urination
  • An enlarged or sore abdomen

Preventing Bowel Obstruction:

Keep a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.

Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated aids keep your digestive system moving smoothly.

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can aid prevent constipation.

Avoid smoking: Smoking can improve your risk of developing adhesions, which can lead to bowel obstruction.


Bowel obstruction is a serious medical condition that requires prompt recognition and intervention to prevent complications such as bowel ischemia, perforation, and sepsis. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and emergency management strategies outlined by Dr. Samrat Jankar, Fistula Specialist in Pune, can provide timely and effective care to individuals experiencing this condition.

Early intervention not only alleviates symptoms but also reduces the risk of complications, enhancing patient outcomes.

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