Can Diverticulitis Cause Bowel Obstruction?

Q: Hello, my husband suffers from diverticulitis. He has been hospitalized several times. I’ve been told that it can lead to more serious complications, including obstruction. Can diverticulitis cause bowel obstruction and how common is it? – Aileen

A: Aileen, thank you for sending in this important question. The answer is yes, diverticulitis can lead to bowel obstruction.

Diverticulitis is an inflammation or infection of small pouches along the walls of the intestines, called diverticula. The pouches can develop anywhere on the digestive tract, but they most commonly form at the end of the descending and sigmoid colons located on the left side of the abdomen.

Diverticulitis may be acute or chronic. The acute form involves one or more severe episodes of infection and inflammation. For patients with chronic diverticulitis, the inflammation and infection will subside but may never clear up completely. The inflammation can eventually result in a bowel obstruction, symptoms of which include:

  • pain or tenderness around or just below the belly button
  • stomach cramps that come and go
  • swelling or bloating of the stomach (distention)
  • constipation and the inability to pass gas (sign of complete blockage)
  • diarrhea (if bowel is partially blocked)
  • nausea and vomiting

Pain, nausea or vomiting accompanied by difficulty or inability to pass gas or stool are typically the first sings of an obstruction. Mechanical blockages prevent the normal passage of food, causing it to become backed up. These blockages are often caused be adhesions, or bands of internal scar tissue that forms as part of the body’s natural healing process. The intestines stop functioning, preventing the patient from eating or eliminating waste. If untreated, bowel obstruction can be life-threatening and even fatal.

Clear Passage Physical Therapy is a world leader in the non-surgical treatment of bowel obstruction. Schedule a free phone consultation with an expert therapist to learn more about our therapy.

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