Printer Friendly Version Email A Friend Add This Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size

Intestinal obstruction repair



Intestinal obstruction repair is surgery to relieve a bowel obstruction (blockage). A complete obstruction is a surgical emergency, no matter what the cause is.

Alternative Names

Repair of volvulus; Reduction of intussusception, lysis of intestinal adhesions


Intestinal obstruction repair is done while you are under general anesthesia. This makes you unconscious and unable to feel pain.

The surgeon makes an incision (cut) in your belly to expose your intestines. Then the surgeon locates the area of your intestine (also called "bowel") that is blocked. The blockage will be freed. Any injured sections of your bowel will be repaired or removed. If a section is removed, the healthy ends will be reconnected with stitches.

See also: Large bowel resection

Sometimes when part of the intestine is removed, the ends cannot be reconnected. If this happens, the surgeon will bring the ends out through an opening called a colostomy. The surgeon will make this opening in your belly.

The surgeon will also examine the bowel for lack of blood flow.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

A blockage in the bowel keeps stool from moving through. Gas gets trapped inside the bowel, and that causes swelling and abdominal distention. A blockage that lasts for a long time keeps blood from flowing normally. Poor blood flow can cause parts of the bowel to die.

Causes of intestinal obstruction include:

  • Scar tissue (adhesions)
  • Incarcerated hernias
  • Tumors or cysts
  • Intussusception
  • Twisting or kinking of the bowel (volvulus)
  • Swallowed objects not meant to be eaten

Surgery is often needed to treat a bowel obstruction. The type of operation depends on the cause of the obstruction.


Risks for any surgery are:

  • Blood clots in the legs that may travel to the lungs
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Infection, including in the lungs, urinary tract, and belly

Other risks of abdominal surgery are:

  • Bowel leakage
  • Formation of scar tissue (adhesions)
  • Bowel obstruction after surgery
  • Temporary paralysis (freezing up) of the bowel (paralytic ileus)
  • Damage to nearby organs in the body
  • Wound (incision) infection
  • Wound opening up
  • Bleeding inside your belly
  • The edges of your intestines that are sewn together may open. This may cause life-threatening problems.
  • More scar tissue may form in your belly and cause blockage of your intestines.
  • Problems with colostomy or Ileostomy.
Before the Procedure

This surgery is usually done for two reasons:

  • As a medical emergency
  • When other medical treatments do not work for someone who is already in the hospital for treatment of a bowel obstruction

Because of this, most patients who have this surgery do not prepare for it the same way they would prepare for a surgery that is planned ahead of time.

After the Procedure

The time it takes to recover from bowel obstruction surgery depends on the specific type of operation that was done to correct the obstruction and on the person's general health.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome is usually good if the obstruction is treated before tissue damage or tissue death occurs in the bowel. Some people may have more bowel obstruction in the future.


Turnage RH, Heldmann M, Cole P. Intestinal obstruction and illeus. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 116.

Related Taxonomy

Review Date: 1/26/2009
Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Home Page
Why Choose Us
Website Terms of Use

Visitor & Patient Info
Patient Portal
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us

Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking

Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access
Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000    |