What is Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction?

Intestinal pseudo-obstruction

is a very rare disorder where persons suffering from the disorder possess symptoms of a normal intestinal blockage like bowel obstruction. But when examined, there would be no evident blockage of the intestines as such as the problem is caused by nerves or muscles.

Pseudo-Intestinal Obstruction:

People who suffer from this problem would have issues with passage of food, air and stool through as the small and large intestines are unable to push them through the gastrointestinal tract.

  • This obstruction of the bowels can either be acute or chronic and it usually affects either children (from birth) or the elderly people. But people of any age can get affected by this problem. While children are known to suffer from the chronic form of the disease, elderly people often suffer from the acute form.
  • The acute form is also referred to as

    acute colonic ileus


    Ogilvie Syndrome

    and this problem can be life threatening in the elderly population.


The causes of the problem may either be known or unknown. If unknown, the condition is termed primary pseudo-obstruction and if the causes are known, then it is termed secondary pseudo-obstruction.

The causes for a secondary pseudo-obstruction are-

  • infections
  • pelvic or abdominal surgeries
  • medications and antidepressants
  • neurological disorders

The above mentioned problems can affect the muscles and nerves causing the obstruction of bowels and blockage.


The following are the symptoms of the condition –

  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • constipation
  • abdominal cramps
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • bladder and esophagus related issues (very rare though)

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Since the problem is not a direct problem of the intestines, imaging techniques alone would not help diagnose the condition. barium swallow test along with colonoscopy and X-ray would be required to study the flow of food through the intestines.

Once the condition is diagnosed, colonoscopy and nasogastric suction can help empty the air from the large intestine and the bowels. At the same time, intravenous fluids and vitamin supplements should be given to the patients. In more severe cases of

intestinal pseudo-obstruction

, a surgery would be required.

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