(Adynamic Ileus; Paralytic Ileus; Nonmechanical Bowel Obstruction; Ogilvie’s Syndrome; Colonic Pseudo-obstruction)
Ileus is a type of nonmechanical bowel obstruction. It results when peristalsis stops. Peristalsis is the wavelike contractions that push contents through the digestive system.
Small Bowel Distention
Ileus is caused by damage to the nerves controlling the intestines from surgery, infection, low blood flow, trauma, medications, or changes in the body chemistry.
Factors that increase your chance of ileus include:
- Abdominal, joint, or spine surgery
- Intestinal injury or trauma
- Severe generalized trauma
- Abdominal bleeding.
- Infections, such as:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Imbalance of electrolytes, especially potassium and calcium
- Disorders that affect muscle function
- Use of certain drugs, such as narcotic pain drugs, high blood pressure medication, or chemotherapy
- A previous history of ileus
Symptoms of ileus may include:
- Abdominal swelling
- Inability to pass stool or gas
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam and blood tests will be done. A diagnosis of ileus is usually based on symptoms and results of imaging studies.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
The lining of your colon may need to be examined. This can be done with a colonoscopy.
If ileus was caused by surgery, stress, or trauma it will usually resolve within 48-72 hours. In other cases, the disease or abnormality that caused the ileus needs to be treated. This may involve adjusting the dose of or stopping a medication, treating an infection, or replacing electrolytes.
Other treatments may be used to help ease symptoms. These may include:
Nasogastric Suction (NG Tube)
A tube is inserted through the nose and into the stomach to remove digestive fluids. This will help relieve pain and bloating.
There are medications that increase peristalsis, such as neostigmine and tegaserod, which can be used in some to help ileus resolve.
Since ileus is generally the result of injury, surgery, or a medical condition, there is little that can be done to prevent it.
American Gastroenterological Association
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Acute intestinal pseud-obstruction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 5, 2013. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Intestinal obstruction and ileus. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/intestinal-obstruction-and-ileus. Updated April 20, 2010. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.