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Intestinal obstruction repair

Definition

Intestinal obstruction repair is surgery to relieve a bowel obstruction. A bowel obstruction occurs when the contents of the intestines cannot pass through and exit the body. A complete obstruction is a surgical emergency.

Alternative Names

Repair of volvulus; Paralytic ileus - repair; Intestinal volvulus - repair; Bowel obstruction - repair; Ileus - repair

Description

Intestinal obstruction repair is done while you are under general anesthesia. This means you are asleep and do not feel pain.

The surgeon makes a cut in your belly to see your intestines. Sometimes, the surgery can be done using a laparoscope, which means smaller cuts are used.

The surgeon locates the area of your intestine (bowel) that is blocked and unblocks it.

Any damaged parts of your bowel will be repaired or removed. This procedure is called bowel resection. If a section is removed, the healthy ends will be reconnected with stitches or staples. Sometimes, when part of the intestine is removed, the ends cannot be reconnected. If this happens, the surgeon will bring one end out through an opening in the abdominal wall. This may be done using a colostomy, ileostomy, or mucous fistula.

The surgeon will also check the blood flow to the rest of the bowel.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

This procedure is done to relieve a blockage in your intestine. A blockage that lasts for a long time can interfere with blood flow to the area. This can cause the bowel to die.

Risks

Risks of any surgery include:

  • Bleeding inside your belly
  • Blood clots in the legs that may travel to the lungs
  • Bowel leakage
  • Bowel obstruction after surgery
  • Breathing problems
  • Damage to nearby organs in the body
  • Formation of scar tissue (adhesions)
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Infection, including the lungs, urinary tract, and belly
  • More scar tissue forming in your belly and causing a blockage of your intestines in the future
  • Opening of the edges of your intestines that are sewn together (anastomotic leak), which may cause life-threatening problems
  • Problems with colostomy or ileostomy
  • Temporary paralysis (freezing up) of the bowel (paralytic ileus)
  • Wound (incision) infection
  • Wound opening up (dehiscence)

After the Procedure

How long it takes to recover depends on your overall health and the type of operation.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome is usually good if the obstruction is treated before tissue damage or death occurs in the bowel.

People who have had many abdominal surgeries may form scar tissue. These patients are more likely to have bowel obstructions in the future.

References

Fry RD, Mahmoud NN, Maron DJ, Bleier JIS. Colon and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 52.

Turnage RH, Heldmann M. Intestinal obstruction. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 119.


Review Date: 4/9/2014
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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