What Is Ileus?
Ileus is a
blockage of the intestines caused by a lack of peristalsis. Peristalsis is the
pumping action of the intestines that helps move food through the digestive
system. Ileus is used to describe both full and partial blockages. Solids
(food), liquids, and gases are not able to move properly through the body when
can stop due to a mechanical blockage as well. Mechanical means there is
something physically lodged in the intestine that is causing the blockage. This
could be foreign matter or even food or feces, for instance. It could also be a
result of a twisted intestine (volvulus), hernia, tumor, inflammation, or
abnormal growths. Non-mechanical means there is not a physical blockage but
movement has stopped. Mechanical
blockages are more common than non-mechanical blockages. Ileus is an example of
a non-mechanical blockage.
What Causes Ileus?
blockage can be caused by injury or trauma, lack of activity, or abnormal
chemical reactions in the intestines. It may also be a side effect of certain
pain medications, such as morphine and oxycodone.
Ileus is often
caused by colon cancer, kidney disease, abdominal infection, or inflammation resulting
from other conditions, such as diverticulitis. Ileus can also be caused by:
- volvulus (twisted colon)
- improper muscle or nerve functioning in the intestines due
- certain pain medications and antidepressants
- disorders of the muscles or nerves (e.g. Parkinson’s
ileus is a common condition that can prolong hospital stays.
Risk Factors for Ileus
with certain health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or abdominal cancer,
may be more at risk of developing ileus. Surgery in the abdomen or pelvis can often
cause intestinal blockages.
Symptoms of Ileus
The most common
symptom of ileus is discomfort in the abdomen due to cramping, bloating,
diarrhea, or the inability to make a bowel movement. Nausea and vomiting are
also common symptoms.
considered a serious medical situation and should be treated as such. If
symptoms appear, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
doctor first looks for possible mechanical blockages. The next step is taking a
look at possible non-mechanical blockages. Finding these blockages may involve
a physical examination, followed by X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans,
and/or blood tests.
The first step
in treating ileus is refraining from eating or drinking. The patient will be
given an IV and electrolytes to keep him/her hydrated. Specific treatments will
vary depending on the cause of the blockage. Additional treatment might be
required for the underlying condition.
An ileus patient
might be given medication, including pills (laxatives), suppositories, or
enemas to stimulate a bowel movement. The doctor will then monitor the
patient’s bowels to watch for signs of activity. Passing gas or having a bowel
movement are good signs that the intestines are starting to work properly
activity can be one of the most helpful solutions in treating ileus. In some
cases, ileus clears up without any treatment.
Ileus can be
treated successfully, especially if medical attention is sought at the first
sign of intestinal blockage.
untreated, ileus could lead to tissue death or cause infection in the
intestines. Infection is serious and potentially life-threatening.