Mechanical obstruction of the small bowel and colon

The Medical Clinics of North America
Mitchell S Cappell, Mihaela Batke


Mechanical obstruction of the small bowel and colon is moderately common, accounting for several hundred thousand admissions per year in the United States. Patients generally present with abdominal pain, nausea and emesis, abdominal distention, and progressive obstipation. Clinical findings of high fever, localized severe abdominal tenderness, rebound tenderness, severe leukocytosis, or metabolic acidosis suggest possible complications of bowel necrosis, bowel perforation, or generalized peritonitis. Differentiation of total mechanical obstruction from partial mechanical obstruction and pseudo-obstruction is important because total mechanical obstruction is generally treated surgically,whereas the other two entities are usually treated medically. Mechanical obstruction is usually suggested by plain abdominal radiographs, and confirmed by small bowel follow through,abdominal CT, or CT enteroclysis.


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