What is paralytic ileus?

The bowel, or intestine, is the part of the digestive tract that absorbs nutrients from foods we eat. The residue of digested food passes through the bowel and is excreted during elimination, the final stage of digestion. This process can be interrupted or halted by the presence of a bowel obstruction, a blockage that prevents the passage of intestinal contents, such as feces and fluid.

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Paralytic ileus is the occurrence of intestinal blockage in the absence of an actual physical obstruction. This type of blockage is caused by a malfunction in the nerves and muscles in the intestine that impairs digestive movement. Causes of ileus include electrolyte imbalances, gastroenteritis (inflammation or infection of the stomach or intestines), appendicitis, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), surgical complications, and obstruction of the mesenteric artery, which supplies blood to the abdomen. Certain drugs and medications, such as opioids and sedatives, can cause ileus by slowing peristalsis, the contractions that propel food through the digestive tract.

Paralytic ileus can produce a variety of symptoms, such as a distended abdomen, fullness, gas, abdominal spasms, constipation, diarrhea, nausea with or without vomiting, and foul-smelling breath. Treatment options include surgical placement of a tube through the stomach or nose to alleviate the distension and remove the obstruction.

Paralytic ileus is a serious medical condition that should be evaluated immediately by a health care provider. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you develop symptoms of paralytic ileus, such as being unable to eliminate feces or pass gas, accompanied by abdominal pain or swelling.


What are the symptoms of paralytic ileus?

Symptoms of paralytic ileus primarily affect the gastrointestinal system and include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal fullness and distension (bloating), stomach pain and spasms, and constipation.

Common symptoms of paralytic ileus

Symptoms of paralytic ileus primarily affect the gastrointestinal trac... Read more about paralytic ileussymptoms


What causes paralytic ileus?

A bowel obstruction occurs when there is a blockage that prevents the passage of intestinal contents. Paralytic ileus is the occurrence of an intestinal blockage in the absence of an actual obstruction. Paralytic ileus is caused by malfunction of the nerves and muscles in the intestines that impairs movement and digestion.

Causes of paralytic ileus include electrolyte imbalances, ... Read more about paralytic ileuscauses


How is paralytic ileus treated?

Treatment of paralytic ileus begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider, who will likely admit you to the hospital for treatment. Treatment usually involves placing a tube through the nose or stomach to alleviate the symptoms.

Treatment to relieve the swelling or distension

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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