Ileus is a type of non-mechanical bowel obstruction. It results when peristalsis stops. Peristalsis is the wavelike contractions that help push stool through the colon and small bowel.
Small Bowel Distention
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Ileus may be caused by: Abdominal surgeryJoint or spine surgeryInjury or trauma
Infections, such as:
Severe generalized infections such as
sepsisHeart attackImbalance of electrolytesDisorders that affect muscle functionUse of certain drugs, such as narcotic pain drugs or high blood pressure medicationLow blood supply to parts of the intestine
Factors that increase your risk of getting ileus include: Abdominal surgery, infection, or injuryJoint or spine surgeryA previous history of ileusUse of certain pain or high blood pressure drugs
Certain health conditions or diseases, such as:
Lower lobe pneumoniaHeart attack
Symptoms of ileus may include: Abdominal swellingPainVomitingCrampsHiccupsInability to pass stool or gas
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis of ileus is usually based on symptoms and testing.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: X-raysCT scanBarium enema
The lining of your colon may need to be examined. This can be done with
If ileus was caused by surgery, it will usually resolve within 48 to 72 hours. In other cases, the disease that caused the ileus needs to be treated. This may involve adjusting the dose of
a medication, treating an infection,
or replacing electrolytes.
Other treatments may be used to help ease symptoms. These may include:
Patients who suffer from ileus should not be fed until the ileus has resolved.
A tube is inserted through the nose and into the stomach to remove digestive fluids. This will help relieve pain and bloating.
Fluids and electrolytes are given by vein to avoid dehydration.
There are medications that increase peristalsis, such as neostigmine and tegaserod, that can be used in selected patients to help ileus resolve.
A flexible tube may be inserted into the colon to relieve pressure.
Rarely, surgery is required if there is a perforation or other abnormality causing the ileus.
Since ileus is generally the result of injury, surgery, or a medical condition, there is little that can be done to prevent it.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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