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Bowel Obstruction


A bowel obstruction occurs when your large or small intestine is completely or partly blocked. The blockage prevents food and waste from passing through normally.

Digestive Tract


Informed consent:

Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine, liquids, or nutrition. You may not be able to eat or drink anything until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Foley catheter:

A Foley catheter is a tube that healthcare providers put into your bladder to drain your urine into a bag. Keep the bag below your waist. This will help prevent infection and other problems caused by urine flowing back into your bladder. Do not pull on the catheter, because this may cause pain and bleeding, and the catheter could come out. Keep the catheter tubing free of kinks so your urine will flow into the bag. Healthcare providers will remove the catheter as soon as possible, to help prevent infection.


Antibiotics may be given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.


  • Blood tests may show if you have an infection, or if you are dehydrated. Dehydration can develop when your intestines cannot absorb liquid properly.
  • An x-ray takes pictures of the organs inside your abdomen and chest. The pictures are used to look for an obstruction.
  • A CT or MRI scan may be used to take pictures of your intestines. The pictures may show the location and cause of your blockage. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the blockage better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done to find the location of your obstruction.


  • A nasogastric tube may be put into your nose. The tube passes through your throat and is guided into your stomach. The tube will be attached to a suction device that removes air and fluid from your stomach.
  • Surgery may be done to treat the cause of the blockage.


Even with treatment, it may take some time for your bowel movements to return to normal. A bowel obstruction increases your risk for another bowel obstruction in the future. A bowel obstruction may reduce blood flow to your intestines, which may cause that tissue to die. The pressure inside your intestine may cause the intestine to rupture. This may cause a life-threatening infection.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Bowel Obstruction (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference