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Bowel Obstruction

What Is a Bowel Obstruction?

A bowel obstruction is when something blocks your large or small intestine. This blockage makes it difficult to pass waste or gas through your body and can lead to serious complications. A bowel obstruction can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • A twisted section of bowel, which stops food and waste from passing through the intestine

  • Narrowing of the intestine passage from inflammation, scar tissue, hernia, tumor or other type of growth

  • Damaged blood vessels that make it difficult for the bowel to contract and push waste out of the body

  • Paralyzed bowel muscles


A bowel obstruction is uncomfortable and can become painful. Symptoms include:

  • Constipation – You may have difficulty passing stool out of the body.

  • Inability to pass gas – Not being able to relieve stomach cramps through gas may be a sign of bowel obstruction.

  • Stomach cramps – Cramps can be severe and may come and go.

  • Swollen belly – Your stomach may become noticeable swollen or look bloated.

  • Lack of appetite – A full intestine can keep you from feeling hungry.

  • Nausea or vomiting – You may feel sick to your stomach and/or vomit.

  • Diarrhea – Loose, watery stool more than three times in one day may be a sign of bowel obstruction.

Treatment Options

A bowel obstruction is a serious health condition. If you suspect you have an obstructed bowel, contact your doctor right away. They may refer you to emergency care or a gastroenterologist specialist who can help diagnose your condition and identify the cause.

Treatment for bowel obstruction includes:

  • Surgery – Blockages may need surgery to remove the barrier in the intestine and allow stool to pass.

  • Stent – A stent, made from wire mesh, can be placed in the bowel at the blockage to help the intestine to open.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of bowel obstruction, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat bowel obstruction.