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Diseases reference index «Primary intestinal pseudo-obstruction»

Primary intestinal pseudo-obstruction is a condition in which there are symptoms of intestinal blockage without any physical signs of a blockage.

Causes

In primary intestinal pseudo-obstruction, the small or large intestines lose their ability to contract and push food, stool, and air through the gastrointestinal tract.

The condition can occur suddenly (acute) or over time (chronic). It may occur at any age, but is most common in children and the elderly. Because the cause is unknown, it is also called idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (idiopathic means occurring without reason).

Risk factors include:

  • Having cerebral palsy or other nervous system (neurologic) disorders
  • Staying in bed for long periods of time (bedridden)
  • Taking narcotic (pain) medications

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen abdomen (abdominal distention)
  • Weight loss

Exams and Tests

Signs include:

  • Malabsorption

Tests include:

  • Abdominal x-ray
  • Barium swallow or barium enema
  • Esophageal manometry
  • Intestinal radionuclide scan

Treatment

  • A medication called neostigmine may be used to treat pseudo-obstruction of the large intestine.
  • Colonoscopy may be used to remove air from the intestine.
  • Fluids given through a vein (intravenous fluids) will replace fluids lost from vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Nasogastric suction -- a nasogastric (NG) tube is placed through the nose into the stomach to remove air from (decompress) the bowel.
  • Special diets usually do not work, although vitamin B12 supplements may be used for patients with vitamin deficiency.

In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most cases of acute pseudo-obstruction get better in a few days with treatment. The disease may return, and can continue for many years.

Possible Complications

  • Diarrhea
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Weight loss

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have persistent abdominal pain or other symptoms of this disorder.

Alternative Names

Intestinal pseudo-obstruction; Acute colonic ileus; Colonic pseudo-obstruction; Idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction; Ogilvie's syndrome; Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction

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