Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

Large Bowel ObstructionObstrucci┬│n del intestino grueso

Large Bowel Obstruction

A large bowel obstruction occurs when there is partial or total blockage in the large intestine (also called the large bowel or colon). As a result, waste cannot move through the bowel properly and out of the body. Treatment is needed right away to remove the blockage. This can relieve painful symptoms. It can also prevent serious complications such as tissue death or rupture of the large bowel. Without treatment, a large bowel obstruction can be fatal.

Causes of Large Bowel Obstruction

A large bowel obstruction can be caused by the following:

  • Cancer

  • Twisting of the bowel (volvulus)

  • A narrowing (stricture) of the bowel caused by conditions such as diverticulitis and Crohn's disease

  • Sliding of a portion of the bowel into another portion (intussusception)

  • A hard lump of stool (impacted feces)

Symptoms of Large Bowel Obstruction

Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain

  • Abdominal swelling and bloating

  • Inability to pass gas

  • Inability to pass stool (constipation)

Diagnosing Large Bowel Obstruction

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You'll also have a physical exam. In addition, tests may be done to confirm the problem. These can include:

  • Imaging tests. These provide pictures of the large bowel. Common tests include x-rays and a computed tomography (CT) scan.

  • Blood tests. These check for infection and other problems such as dehydration.

  • Air enema or contrast enema. One of these tests is done to take pictures of the inside of the large bowel. A thin tube is inserted into the rectum through the anus. Then either air or contrast fluid is sent through the tube. This makes the bowel show up clearly on x-rays.

  • Colonoscopy. This test is done to see inside the large bowel with a colonoscope ("scope"). The scope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end. It is inserted into the rectum through the anus. This lets the doctor check for problems and collect tissue samples (biopsy), if needed.

Treating Large Bowel Obstruction

Treatment takes place in a hospital. As part of your care, the following may be done:

  • No food or drink is given by mouth. This allows your bowels to rest.

  • An intravenous (IV) line is placed in a vein in your arm or hand. It's used to give you fluids and nutrition. It's also used to give medications. These may be needed to relieve pain and other symptoms. They may also be needed to treat or prevent infections.

  • A soft, thin, flexible tube (nasogastric tube) is inserted through your nose and into your stomach. The tube is used to remove extra gas and fluid in your stomach and bowels. An air or contrast enema may be done as well. It can remove gas or help clear a blockage.

  • In some cases of large bowel obstruction, procedures with a colonoscope are done as treatment. For instance, the scope may be used to "straighten" a twisted colon that is causing a blockage. Or, tools may be passed through the scope to widen narrowed areas of the colon or to place a stent in the colon. A stent is an expandable tubelike device. Placing it in the colon can help relieve symptoms.

  • More often, surgery is done as treatment for a large bowel obstruction. During surgery, the blockage is removed. If a portion of the bowel has died due to lack of blood flow, this must also be removed. The healthy ends of the bowel are then reconnected. If a long portion of the bowel is removed, a small opening (stoma) may need to be made in the abdomen. This provides a new way for waste to leave the body. The stoma may be temporary or permanent. Depending on the cause of the blockage, other repair may be done as well.

  • Once treatment is done, you'll be observed in the hospital until your symptoms improve. Your doctor will tell you when can return home. If a stoma was created during surgery, you'll be taught how to care for it properly before leaving the hospital.

Long-term Concerns

After treatment, many people recover with no lasting effects. If a long portion of the bowel was removed, you're at higher risk of lifelong digestive problems such as irregular bowel movements. If you have cancer or other conditions, you'll need to continue seeing your doctor for treatment. Work with your doctor to learn the best ways to manage your condition and to protect your health.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4┬░F or higher

  • Abdominal swelling or cramping that won't go away

  • Inability to pass stool or gas

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Rectal bleeding

Date Last Reviewed:

Date Last Modified:

For top-quality, up-to-date care for gastrointestinal problems, trust the board-certified, experienced GI specialists trusted by thousands of patients and their doctors for nearly 30 years. Call Gastroenterology Consultants at (281) 481-9400 or fill out our online Request an Appointment form to schedule your consultation with us.


444 FM 1959, Suite A,
Houston, TX 77034
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

St. John

2060 Space Park Drive, Suite 306
Nassau Bay, TX 77058
Direct Phone: 281-892-2460

Clear Lake

250 Blossom Street, Suite 210 Webster, TX 77598
Direct Phone: 281-316-1119


4211 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77504
Direct Phone: 832-456-8434


15015 Kirby Dr. Ste.200A
Pearland, TX 77047
Direct Phone: 713-343-6360

League City

2555 S. Gulf Freeway Ste. 500
League City, TX 77573
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

Gastroenterology Consultants is a leader in advanced, comprehensive gastrointestinal care. We specialize in up-to-date gastrointestinal care, which includes screening and treatment for colon cancer, heartburn and acid reflux, esophageal disorders and difficulty swallowing, peptic ulcers, H. pylori, gallstones and other gallbladder disorders, rectal bleeding and hemorrhoids, malabsorption and celiac disease, liver diseases - hepatitis C, hepatitis B, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatoma and liver cancer, abdominal pain, noncardiac chest pain, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, anemia, nausea and vomiting, gas and bloating and lactose intolerance

Gastroenterology Consultants also offers colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer, EGD & capsule endoscopy small-bowel, endoscopic ultrasound, Bravo 48-hour pH monitoring, H. pylori breath testing, esophageal manometry and impedance testing, hemorrhoid band ligation, esophageal dilatation, advanced therapeutic ERCP, Biologic therapy, treatment of Barrett's esophagus, common bile duct stones and endoscopic mucosal resection.