Bowel Obstruction

What is a bowel obstruction?

Intestinal or bowel obstruction is when fluids, gas, and stomach juices are unable to pass through the intestines due to a blockage. The blockage may be as a result of scar tissue build-up that occurs after abdominal surgery. It may also be because of intestinal inflammation, such as from Crohn's disease, or because of intestinal infection (diverticulitis), or a tumor. Bowel obstruction is particularly common in people with advanced cancer who have had abdominal surgery or radiation to the area.

Bowel obstruction is not the same as constipation, although constipation is sometimes a symptom of bowel obstruction.

Symptoms of a bowel obstruction

People who have bowel obstruction often have symptoms, such as:

  • Cramping pain near or below the belly button
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating (a hard belly that feels full)
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

Diagnosis and testing for bowel obstructions

To accurately diagnose your condition, your doctor will perform a physical exam and talk to you about any recent surgeries and other aspects of your health history. Diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray, CT scan, barium enema, and blood testing may be prescribed to see exactly where the blockage is and to analyze other possibly related factors.

Bowel obstruction treatment options

Depending on the cause of your condition, a variety of treatment options exist, including medication, fluid replacement therapy, stenting, and in some cases, surgery.

At Main Line Health our gastroenterologists and specialist teams have vast experience diagnosing and treating bowel obstruction through a variety of approaches, both surgical and noninvasive.



Main Line Health gastroenterology works to resolve digestive issues and GI conditions. Find the right solution for your digestive conditions at one of our Philadelphia locations.