Small bowel obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the small intestine, which is a part of the digestive system. Small bowel obstruction can be caused by many things, including adhesions, hernia and inflammatory bowel disorders. Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are discussed.
The small bowel, also called the small intestine, ranges from 20 to 30 feet long and is about 1 inch in diameter. It has many folds that allow it to fit into the abdominal cavity. One end of the small bowel is connected to the stomach and the other to the large intestine.
The small intestine consists of 3 parts: the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Partly digested food passes from the stomach to the small intestine, where the final digestive processes occur. Nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water are absorbed by its lining.
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Small bowel obstruction is a partial or complete blockage of the small intestine. If the small bowel is functioning normally, digested products will continue to flow onward to the large intestine. An obstruction in the small bowel can partly or completely block contents from passing through. This causes waste matter and gases to build up in the portion above the blockage. It could also interfere with the absorption of nutrients and fluids.
Small bowel obstruction can occur in people of all ages. There are many common causes and risk factors, including:
Symptoms of small bowel obstruction may include the following:
In cases where patients have fever, low blood pressure, or rapid heartbeat, other lab tests may be needed, including:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2019.
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