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Our board-certified physicians diagnose and treat many vascular conditions. Call 310-481-7545 to learn more about interventional radiology services.

What is gastrointestinal obstruction?

Gastrointestinal obstruction is a partial or complete blockage along the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestines, colon (large intestines), and rectum. A blockage anywhere along this path can affect how food, fluids, and gas move through the tract and get absorbed.

The blockage could be caused by something in the gastrointestinal tract disrupting movement or narrowing or twists in the intestines. Examples include but are not limited to tumors, hernias, constipation, adhesions (scar tissue), and inflammation along the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.). If left untreated, affected parts of the tract can die and the problem could be life-threatening.

Enlarged loops of small bowel with air layering on top of fluid

Risk Factors

  • Severe constipation
    • Can occur from certain medications, such as opioids
  • Hernias
  • Diverticulitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Ulcerative colitis
  • Cancers, including but not limited to
    • Stomach cancer
    • Colon cancer
    • Ovarian cancer
    • Uterine cancer
    • Prostate cancer
  • Abdominal surgery


  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Inability to have bowel movements or pass gas (complete blockage)
  • Diarrhea (partial blockage)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling


In addition to the physical exam, the physician will determine the location and type of blockage using

  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • CT scan

Additional blood and lab tests may be performed to check for causes or effects of the obstruction, such as:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Metabolic panel

For More Information:

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our IR physicians, please call 310-481-7545.