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Bowel Obstruction Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms of a bowel obstruction include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe constipation ; inability to pass gas or stool
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
  • Foul breath odor

Complications from an untreated obstruction can include strangulation, which is cutting off of the blood supply to part of the intestine.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor will place a stethoscope on your abdomen to listen for bowel sounds. If the normal bowel sounds are absent, or if high pitched, tinkling sounds are present, it may be an indication of bowel obstruction. Further testing may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Abdominal x-rays
    • Barium enema —injection of fluid into the rectum that makes your colon show up on an x-ray so the doctor can see abnormal spots
    • Endoscopy—insertion of a thin, lighted tube through the rectum to examine the intestine
    • CT scan of the abdomen

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Bowel Obstruction Guide

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