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What is ileus?

Ileus is a condition that develops when the muscles of your intestines stop contracting. This causes a blockage that prevents food and waste from passing through normally.

What increases my risk for ileus?

  • Surgery
  • Certain medicines, such as opioids
  • Electrolyte imbalance, such as not enough potassium or calcium in your blood
  • Inflammation caused by trauma, bleeding, or pancreatitis
  • Infection

What are the signs and symptoms of ileus?

  • Decreased or no passage of gas or bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased appetite or inability to eat

How is ileus diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. He will ask about your symptoms and when they started. Tell him if you take any medicines or have any health conditions. Tell him if you had a recent surgery. You may also need any of the following tests:

  • Abdominal x-rays check for infection and other problems in your intestines.
  • A CT scan takes pictures of your intestines. The pictures may show the location and cause of your ileus. You may be given a dye to help healthcare providers see your intestines better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • A barium enema is used to help your colon show up better on the x-ray. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Then x-rays are taken.
  • Blood tests may show the cause of your ileus, such as an infection or electrolyte imbalance.

How is ileus treated?

Your treatment depends on the cause of your ileus. You may need any of the following:

  • An IV may be used to give you liquids and nutrition. You may not be able to eat or drink anything until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • 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.
  • Medicines may help your intestines contract again and soften your bowel movement to make it easier to pass.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You cannot pass gas or a bowel movement.
  • You have abdominal bloating or pain that does not go away.
  • You cannot eat.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a fever and severe abdominal pain or bloating.
  • You have blood in your bowel movement.
  • Your heart is pounding or racing.

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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Further information

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

Learn more about Ileus

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference