What is ileus?


Ileus (adynamic or paralytic ileus) is a type of bowel obstruction that occurs when the intestines stop moving normally even though there is nothing blocking them. This prevents the digestion of food and the movement of waste out of the body.

Ileus can also be called a nonmechanical bowel obstruction.

Ileus most commonly occurs after abdominal surgery, though it has many other possible causes. Symptoms of adynamic ileus include:

  • Cramping abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Bloating.
  • Nausea and vomiting. Vomit may be green or dark.
  • Minimal or no passage of gas or stool.

This combination of symptoms requires immediate medical evaluation.

Treatment for ileus begins with intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes. This treatment helps to keep blood pressure at a normal level and prevent dehydration. A tube placed in the nose and down into the stomach removes digestive fluids, which helps relieve and prevent pain and bloating.

When ileus occurs after surgery, the intestines usually move normally after about 1 to 3 days.

What are the symptoms of ileus?

Symptoms may include:

  • Cramping belly pain.
  • Bloating.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Not passing stool or gas.

How is ileus treated?

You will need to avoid eating solid food until you are better. Instead, you will get fluids and nutrition through a vein (IV). This helps prevent dehydration. It also lets your bowel rest.

You may have a tube that goes through your nose and into your stomach. This can help ease pain and bloating.

You may get other treatments, depending on what caused ileus. For example, a medicine might be stopped if it is affecting your bowel.

The intestines will often start working again in a few days. Signs of this include being able to pass gas or have a bowel movement. As your intestines start working, you will switch slowly from a liquid diet back to solid foods.

What is ileus?

Ileus (say "ILL-ee-us") is a blockage of the bowel (intestines) that happens when the intestines don't work as they should. Normally, muscles in the intestines squeeze to push food and waste along. When this process stops, the intestines stop digesting food and moving waste out of the body. This may also be called paralytic ileus.

Ileus is not the same as a mechanical bowel obstruction. In a mechanical bowel obstruction, something is actually blocking the intestine, like scar tissue or a tumor. That is not true in ileus.

Ileus sometimes happens after surgery to the belly. But it can also be caused by other things, such as some medicines, certain diseases or infections, and nerve problems.

The doctor may do a number of tests. These tests may include X-rays, blood tests, and a CT scan. Testing can help the doctor be sure that nothing is blocking the intestines.

Most people who have ileus need to be treated in the hospital.

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