Bowel Obstructions

Obstructions in the small and large intestines

A mechanical bowel obstruction can develop in either the small intestine or the large intestine (also called the colon). The condition partially or completely prevents the contents of the intestine from flowing normally through the bowels.

The picture on the left shows a blockage in the small intestine that might develop, for example, as a result of scar tissue formation (adhesions).

The picture on the right shows a partial blockage in the colon caused by a tumour (cancer).

Current as of: August 12, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Kenneth Bark, MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

Thanks to our partners and endorsers: