How is large bowel obstruction diagnosed?

  • Physical exam: The doctor will check to see if you have abdominal pain, vomiting, or any movement of gas or stool in the bowel.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): Your blood will be checked for:
    • The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
    • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
    • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.
  • Abdominal X-ray: An X-ray of the organs inside the abdomen. An X-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • Barium enema: A liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) is put into the rectum. The barium coats the large bowel and X-rays are taken. This test may show what part of the bowel is blocked.
  • CT (computed tomography — also called CAT) scan: This scan makes detailed pictures of areas inside of the body.
  • Colonoscopy: A doctor inserts a colonoscope into the rectum. This scope is a long, flexible tube-like instrument with a camera on the end. It allows the transmission of an image of the colon lining onto a screen for the doctor to view.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/31/2017.


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