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Patient care — surgical procedures

Intestinal obstruction repair: Intestinal obstruction repair involves surgery to relieve a bowel obstruction. Complete intestinal obstruction, no matter what the cause, is a surgical emergency. When a blockage occurs in the bowel (intestine), stool is unable to move through. Gas is trapped within the bowel, causing swelling and abdominal distention. The obstruction also causes restrictions of normal blood flow, which can cause portions of the bowel to die.

The inside of the bowel normally contains many bacteria that serve to help digest foods. When portions of the bowel die, the bowel wall can leak fluids and bacteria out into the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), causing a severe infection (peritonitis).

Intestinal obstruction can result from several causes, such as the following:

  • Band of fibrous or scar tissue (adhesions)
  • Incarcerated hernias
  • Tumors or cysts
  • Telescoping of a portion of bowel into another portion (intussusception)
  • Twisting or kinking of the bowel (volvulus)
  • Swallowed objects (foreign bodies)

This procedure is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). An incision is made in the abdomen. The site of bowel obstruction is located, the obstruction is relieved, and the bowel is examined for injury or ischemia (lack of blood flow leading to tissue death). Injured sections are removed and the healthy ends of the bowel are stitched together, if possible. If resection is not possible, the ends are brought out through an opening in the abdomen (ostomy).


In all cases of intestinal obstruction, the intestine involved is carefully examined. If any parts of the intestine look unhealthy from lack of blood flow during the period of obstruction, they are removed and the healthy ends are reconnected. A patient's recovery depends on the cause of the intestinal obstruction and the length of time prior to relief of the obstruction. The outcome is usually good if the obstruction is treated before damage (ischemia) or death (necrosis) of the bowel occurs.

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