Bowels dilate in response to a partial or total blockage, and surgery is necessary for total blockages but may not be necessary for partial blockages. The bowel proximal to the blockage dilates, while the distal bowel collapses, according to Swansea Radiology.
Some early symptoms of a bowel obstruction include cramping in the lower abdomen when the obstruction is in the large bowel, or pain in the central abdomen when the obstruction is in the small bowel. Swelling in the abdomen, failure to pass stools through and failure to pass wind are all possible symptoms; diarrhea is a possible symptom with a partial blockage, as stated by WebMD.
In the case of a partial blockage resulting from paralytic ileus, the most common treatment involves draining stomach fluids using a flexible tube that goes through the throat, in combination with the correction of electrolyte and fluid imbalances, according to WebMD.
Surgical options include laparoscopy, the insertion of a small tube with a camera and light on the end through a small incision to remove obstructions in the small bowel; laparatomy, an abdominal incision made to find the cause of the dilation or blockage; colonscopy, the insertion of a narrow, flexible tube with a light and camera and a flatus tube to work the twists out of the bowel; or endoscopic stenting, the insertion of a stent that expands and keeps the compressed part of the bowel open. This last option is generally used only for palliative care for cancer patients as well as elderly patients, as stated by WebMD.