A large bowel obstruction is a blockage anywhere inside your child’s large intestine. The large bowel (also called the colon) is the last 5 feet of the intestines. The rectum is the last few inches of the large bowel. The rectum connects with the anus, where bowel movements come out. A blockage may stop all food, gas, or fluids from passing through or just make it harder to pass through and out of your child’s body.
If a blockage is not treated, it can become a life-threatening medical emergency.
Common causes of a blockage are:
The first signs of a blockage may be a change in bowel habits, such as little or no gas, or no bowel movements. Other symptoms may include:
If your child’s intestine is only partly blocked, he may have diarrhea.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
Treatment depends on what is causing the blockage. For example, if your child has intussusception, gently putting air or barium through your child's rectum helps unfold the walls of the intestine. This treatment is very effective in children.
Your child may need to be treated in the hospital with an IV to give him fluids and medicines. Your child may also have a tube put through his nose and into his stomach to help drain fluid and gas. Sometimes a tube is put into your child’s rectum to help relieve gas and make him more comfortable.
Your child may need to have surgery to remove the cause of the blockage. This is more common with complete blockages. A complete blockage is a medical emergency. Part of your child’s intestine may also need to be removed.
Your child may need a procedure called an ileostomy or colostomy for a few months to a year. These procedures are done to connect the healthy part of your child’s intestine to a new opening in the belly called a stoma. Your child’s bowel movements will empty through the opening and collect in a disposable bag outside the body. After your child heals, a second procedure may be done to connect the healthy intestine to the anus. The stoma will be closed during this procedure.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child's healthcare provider. Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
It may help if your child exercises daily and eats a diet high in fiber. Fiber is in foods such as whole wheat, bran, whole rye, oats and oatmeal, flax seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and beans. If your child is not used to high-fiber diets, start slowly. Drinking plenty of water also helps the intestines to work normally.
If your child has a health problem that caused the blockage, be sure you know what to do to manage that health problem and help keep your child from having another blockage.