Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Ileus

(Adynamic Ileus; Paralytic Ileus; Nonmechanical Bowel Obstruction; Ogilvie Syndrome; Colonic Pseudo-obstruction)

Definition

Ileus is a type of bowel obstruction. It happens when wavelike contractions stop. This is called peristalsis. Peristalsis pushes material along the digestive pathway.

Small Bowel Distention
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Causes  ^

The nerves and muscles of the intestines are not working as they should. Damage to them may be caused by:

Risk Factors  ^

Your chances of ileus are higher for:

  • Age over 60 years old
  • Being male
  • Obesity
  • Being in a hospital or institution

Symptoms  ^

Common symptoms:

  • Swelling in the belly
  • Pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to pass stool or gas

Diagnosis  ^

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Some tests will rule out other causes if it’s not clear. You may have:

Treatment  ^

Ileus may go away on its own within 2 to 3 days. If the cause is known, it will need to be treated.

It can also be treated with:

  • Diet—You will get nutrients and fluids through an IV until you're better.
  • Nasogastric suction—A tube is placed through the nose and into the stomach. This will help ease pain and bloating.
  • Activity—You will need to move around on a regular basis.
  • Medicines—Antibiotics to treat certain infections. You may also have medicines to help the muscles move again. Some medicines causing problems may be stopped or changed.
  • Decompression—Pressure is eased during a colonoscopy.
  • Surgery—Rare, but may be needed if no other method works or there is a serious problem. It may include bringing part of the intestine through the belly wall. Solid waste passes into a bag outside of the body.

Prevention  ^

There is no way to prevent ileus in some cases. If you’re having surgery, your healthcare team will take steps to help lower your chances of it.

RESOURCES:

American College of Gastroenterology
http://patients.gi.org

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
https://www.iffgd.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
https://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
http://www.cdhf.ca

REFERENCES:

Acute intestinal pseud-obstruction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114336/Acute-intestinal-pseudo-obstruction. Updated July 12, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2018.

Ileus. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/ileus. Updated January 2017. Accessed August 15, 2018.

Intestinal obstruction and ileus. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/intestinal-obstruction-and-ileus. Updated April 23, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2018.

Prevention and management of postoperative ileus. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905418/Prevention-and-management-of-postoperative-ileus. Updated April 5, 2017. Accessed August 15, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD  Last Updated: 8/15/2018