How is large bowel obstruction treated?

There are different treatments depending on the type of bowel obstruction you have, partial or complete. All obstructions will be treated with IV fluids and electrolyte correction. Occasionally, a nasogastric tube is placed to remove fluid and gas backing up in the upper digestive tract. Medications are used to help with nausea and severe pain. A complete obstruction may require surgery or stenting. A partial obstruction may resolve on its own.

If you have a sudden and short-term bowel obstruction, it will be treated by:

  • Fluid replacement therapy: A treatment to get the fluids in the body back to normal amounts. Intravenous (IV) fluids may be given and medicines may be prescribed.
  • Electrolyte correction: A treatment to get the right amounts of chemicals in the blood, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. Fluids with electrolytes may be given by infusion.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be done if serious symptoms are not relieved by other treatments.

If you have a long-term bowel obstruction, it will be treated by:

  • Surgery: The obstruction is removed to relieve pain and improve quality of life.
  • Stent: A metal tube inserted into the bowel to open the area that is blocked.

What are the side effects associated with treatment?

  • With stent treatment: perforation (tearing), bleeding, and the stent can travel inside the body.
  • The obstruction can occur again.
  • Opioids or narcotics, which are used for pain control, can slow the gastrointestinal system.

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


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