Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose intestinal obstruction include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. He or she will also do a physical exam to assess your situation. The doctor may suspect intestinal obstruction if your abdomen is swollen or tender or if there's a lump in your abdomen. He or she may listen for bowel sounds with a stethoscope.
  • X-ray. To confirm a diagnosis of intestinal obstruction, your doctor may recommend an abdominal X-ray. However, some intestinal obstructions can't be seen using standard X-rays.
  • Computerized tomography (CT). A CT scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images. These images are more detailed than a standard X-ray, and are more likely to show an intestinal obstruction.
  • Ultrasound. When an intestinal obstruction occurs in children, ultrasound is often the preferred type of imaging. In youngsters with an intussusception, an ultrasound will typically show a "bull's-eye," representing the intestine coiled within the intestine.
  • Air or barium enema. An air or barium enema is basically enhanced imaging of the colon that may be done for certain suspected causes of obstruction. During the procedure, the doctor will insert air or liquid barium into the colon through the rectum. For intussusception in children, an air or barium enema can actually fix the problem most of the time, and no further treatment is needed.
Dec. 31, 2015
References
  1. Feldman M, et al. Intestinal obstruction. In: Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 10, 2015.
  2. Glancy DG. Intestinal obstruction. Surgery. 2014;34:204.
  3. Kitagawa S, et al. Intussusception in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 10, 2015.
  4. Intestinal pseudo-obstruction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/intestinal-pseudo-obstruction/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed Sept. 17, 2015.
  5. Ileus. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/ileus. Accessed Sept. 18, 2015.