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Primary intestinal pseudo-obstruction

 

Definition

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

Alternative Names

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

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
Signs and tests

Signs include:

Tests include:

Support Groups

Expectations (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.

Calling your health care provider

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

Complications
  • Diarrhea
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Weight loss
Treatments
  • 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.

Prevention

References

Batke M, Cappell MS. Adynamic ileus and acute colonic pseudo-obstruction. Med Clin North Am. 2008;92:649-670.

Talley NJ. Functional gastrointestinal disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, and noncardiac chest pain. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 139.


Review Date: 8/22/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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