Small bowel obstruction after surgery (1450)

Key points below

What is small bowel obstruction?

When part of the small intestine is blocked or kinked it can cause an obstruction.  When there is a block, the contents of the bowel cannot move.  It is like a garden hose that gets a kink in it. The water does not move through the hose or moves very poorly.  A small bowel obstruction is very similar.  After abdomen or pelvic surgery, scar tissue may push on the intestine and block it.  

What causes it?

Scar tissue, called adhesions, forms in the abdomen after surgery. It may be on the outside or the inside of the intestines.  This cannot be prevented.  Sometimes the scar tissue will form in a way that blocks the bowel.  Small bowel obstruction can happen any time after abdomen or pelvic surgery. It may happen in a few weeks or months, but may happen years after the surgery.  Most often, the scar tissue does not cause any problems. Your child’s chances of ever having a small bowel obstruction are less than 5%.

What are the signs of small bowel obstruction?

The signs will depend on how tight the bowel is blocked.  When the bowel is blocked half way, it is called a partial bowel obstruction.  The signs may not be very obvious. The signs are much more noticeable when the bowel is completely blocked.  This is called a complete bowel obstruction. 
Signs to watch for.  Some children will have a few of the signs while others may have many:

If you see any of these signs and think your child may have a small bowel obstruction. Call the doctor, nurse or clinic right away.

What tests are needed?

How is it treated?