Common Causes Of Twisted Bowel: Symptoms & Treatment Options

Twisted bowel is medically termed intestinal obstruction; it is a blockage / occlusion due to which food and / or liquid cannot pass through the small intestine or large intestine. Common causes include – fibrous bands of tissue in the abdominal cavity post surgery, an inflamed intestine, diverticulitis, hernia and cancer of the colon.

If neglected and not treated promptly, the individual can die. On the other hand, with timely medical intervention, a twisted bowel can be treated successfully.

Symptoms Of Twisted Bowel

Signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction are:

  • Pain in the abdomen which comes and goes intermittently.
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty passing motions and gas.

What Are The Causes Of Twisted Bowel?

The commonest causes in adults are:

  • Intestinal adhesions, i.e. fibrous tissue bands in the abdominal cavity which form post surgery.
  • Hernia
  • Diverticulitis
  • Cancer of the colon

Common causes in children are:

  • Hernia
  • Diverticulitis
  • Impacted feces
  • Volvolus and intussusceptions
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.

Pseudo-obstruction is another significant cause.  A pseudo obstruction or a paralytic ileus causes similar symptoms of intestinal obstruction, but does not involve a physical obstruction in the bowel.

A muscle or nerve impairment disrupts the normal muscular contractions in the intestines, thereby, slowing or halting movement of food and fluid through the GI tract.

Treatment Options For Twisted Bowel

Treatment for twisted bowel depends upon the cause and generally calls for hospitalization for a couple of days.

When you arrive at the hospital, the first goal is to stabilize you; this includes:

  • Placing an IV line so that fluids can be administered.
  • Introducing a naso-gastric tube through the nose into the stomach to pull out air and fluid and allay abdominal swelling.
  • Inserting a catheter in the bladder to drain urine.
  • A barium enema is given as a diagnostic as well as therapeutic procedure for the treatment of intussusceptions in children. If the enema is successful, additional treatment may not be required.
  • In case of a partial obstruction, you may not require further treatment after you have been stabilized. You will be advised a special low-fibre diet. If the obstruction does not repair on its own, surgical intervention is recommended.
  • In case of a complete intestinal block, surgery is a must to allay the blockage. Surgery characteristically comprises of eliminating the blockage, as well as any segment of the intestine that has got damaged or died.
  • Your physician may advise treating the obstruction with a self-expanding metal stent. It is introduced into the intestine via an endoscope passed through the mouth or colon. It forces open the colon to clear up the occlusion. It provides temporary relief in those in whom emergency surgery is risky. You may require surgery, once your condition is stable.
  • In case of a paralytic ileus, your doctor will monitor your condition in the hospital. Paralytic ileus is known to get better on its own. You will be given food through a nasal tube or intravenously to prevent malnutrition. Medications will be prescribed which bring about muscle contractions and help move food and fluids through the bowels. Hardly ever is surgery required to remove a section of the intestine.