Ileus is a partial or complete non-mechanical blockage of the small and/or large intestine.
Causes of Ileus
There are two types of intestinal obstruction, mechanical and non-mechanical. Mechanical obstructions occur because the bowel is physically blocked and its contents can not pass the point of the obstruction. This happens when the bowel twists on itself (volvulus) or as the result of hernias, impacted feces, abnormal tissue growth, or the presence of foreign bodies in the intestines. Non-mechanical obstruction, called ileus or paralytic ileus, occurs because peristalsis stops. Peristalsis is the rhythmic contraction that moves material through the bowel. Ileus is most often associated with an infection of the peritoneum (the membrane lining the abdomen). It is one of the major causes of bowel obstruction in infants and children. Another common cause of ileus is a disruption or reduction of the blood supply to the abdomen. Handling the bowel during abdominal surgery can also cause peristalsis to stop, so people who have had abdominal surgery are more likely to experience ileus. When ileus results from abdominal surgery the condition is often temporary and usually lasts only 48-72 hours. Ileus can also be caused by kidney diseases, especially when potassium levels are decreased. Heart disease and certain chemotherapy drugs, such as vinblastine (Velban, Velsar) and vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar PES, Vincrex), also can cause ileus. Infants with cystic fibrosis are more likely to experience meconium ileus (a dark green material in the intestine). Over all, the total rate of bowel obstruction due both to mechanical and non-mechanical causes is one in one thousand people (1/1,000).
Signs and Symptoms of Ileus
When the bowel stops functioning, the following symptoms occur: abdominal cramping abdominal distention nausea and vomiting failure to pass gas or stool
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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