Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction

(Colonic Ileus; Ogilvie’s Syndrome; Acute Colonic Pseudo-obstruction; Acute Nontoxic Megacolon)
  • Definition

    In intestinal pseudo-obstruction, foods and liquids are unable to pass through the intestine, causing a build-up of food, fluid, and gas in all or part of the colon. The symptoms of this condition acts like a mechanical bowel obstruction , but no blockage is found when doctors examine the intestine.
    The Intestines
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Causes

    Intestinal pseudo-obstruction is caused by problems with the muscles and nerves of the intestine.
  • Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors are thought to increase the risk of developing intestinal pseudo-obstruction:
    • Surgery
    • Abdominal hemorrhage
    • Intestinal ischemia (insufficient blood supply to the digestive system)
    • Inflammation (eg, infection)
    • Trauma
    • Stroke
    • Metabolic problems
    • Fluid overload (eg, congestive heart failure )
    • Other medical illnesses associated with pain
    • Some medications
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of intestinal pseudo-obstruction may include:
    • Cramps
    • Stomach pain
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Bloating
    • Reduction in bowel movements
    • Loose stools
    • Bladder problems
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:
    • Abdominal X-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
    • Abdominal CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
    Nutritional Support
    Intravenous (IV) feeding may be necessary to help prevent malnutrition.
    Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent bacterial infections due to your condition. In addition, medications can be used to treat muscle problems in the intestines. Changes in your medications to eliminate some medications that can slow recovery from, or worsen, this condition.
    In severe cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction, surgery to remove part or your entire intestine may be necessary.
    If the colon does not resume normal function after conservative management, the pressure build-up in the colon can be relieved by removing the trapped air with a colonoscope .
  • Prevention

    Many cases of intestinal pseudo-obstruction cannot be prevented. But certain measures can be taken after surgery to help avoid the complication of intestinal pseudo-obstruction. These measures include:
    • Early oral feeding
    • Gum chewing
    • Fluid restriction
    • Medications that inhibit opioid receptors
    • Beta-blockers

    International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

    National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse


    Canadian Digestive Health Foundation

    Canadian Society of Intestinal Research


    Colonic ileus. DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2007.

    Intestinal pseudo-obstruction. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2007.

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