Cramping abdominal pain centered near the belly button, bloating, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea are signs of a small bowel obstruction, explains WebMD. Additionally, the abdomen may feel hard and enlarged upon examination.
Bowel obstructions can be mechanical blockages, as in the case of foreign bodies or scar tissue from previous surgeries, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. They can also be caused by the inability of the intestine to function well after surgery or due to medications, such as narcotics. This non-mechanical blockage is called paralytic ileus, and tends to be less severe than a mechanical obstruction.
Bowel obstructions are medical emergencies that generally require hospitalization, states Mayo Clinic. Treatment involves the placement of a nasogastric tube to suction gas and fluids and relieve abdominal swelling. Fluids are given intravenously to prevent or reverse dehydration. A catheter may be inserted into the bladder to collect urine.
If the blockage is complete, surgery is required to remove the obstruction and any damaged intestinal tissue, notes Mayo Clinic. If there is a partial blockage, or in the case of paralytic ileus, resting the gastrointestinal tract may allow the blockage to clear itself or give the bowel a chance to begin working properly. If the partial blockage does not resolve, surgery may be necessary.