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What are the symptoms of a small bowel obstruction?

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Quick Answer

The symptoms of small bowel obstruction include waves of intense, cramping abdominal pain around the bellybutton or between the bellybutton and the rib cage, according to Drugs.com. Other symptoms are rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, an absence of gas in the rectum, bloating and belly tenderness.

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Full Answer

Small bowel obstruction is the blockage of the normal passage of intestinal content, explains Drugs.com. Some of the causes include adhesions, hernias, tumors, colorectal cancer, volvulus and diverticular disease.

Adhesions are the most common cause of small bowel obstruction and are responsible for 50 to 70 percent of all cases in the United States, reports Drugs.com. An adhesion is fibrous scar tissue formed outside of an organ either after surgery or an infection. This scar tissue can grow in random patterns and become string-like. After some time it can wrap around an organ such as the intestine and cause strangulation. This strangulation causes the narrowing of the lumen of the intestine, which prevents the normal passage of its contents.

Hernias are the second major cause of small-bowel obstruction, accounting for about 25 percent of all cases in the United States, according to Drugs.com. A hernia is a weakening in a part of the abdominal wall, which allows a piece of intestine to protrude through it. In some cases the protruding part of the intestine is trapped or pinched within the opening. This entrapment causes the intestine to become strangulated and obstructed.

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