Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of an Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstructions can be caused by:

Pseudo-obstruction can be present at birth, have a genetic cause or develop in response to other disorders, including: 

Diagnosing intestinal obstructions

There are several tests for diagnosing an intestinal obstruction, including:

  • Blood test: Lab tests can determine if you have an infection or other illness that is causing the obstruction.
  • Breath test: This test can measure how quickly the stomach is emptying. 
  • X-rays: X-ray images can indicate the location and severity of a blockage.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound testing uses reflected sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Unlike an X-ray or CT scan, there is no ionizing radiation exposure.
  • CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your esophagus.
  • Upper endoscopy: An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached to it) is passed through your mouth and esophagus to your stomach and duodenum. Your physician can look at pictures of your digestive tract and evaluate any abnormalities or blockages. 
  • Capsule endoscopy: A tiny camera, embedded in a small capsule that you swallow, takes pictures of your digestive tract.
  • Lower GI (barium enema): A series of X-rays are taken after you have received an enema containing barium, a contrast material that coats your colon and shows up well on X-rays.
  • Colonoscopy: An endoscope (long, flexible tube) with a lighted camera goes through colon, allowing your physician to view the lining. A sigmoidoscopy uses the same technology but examines only the sigmoid colon (the lower third).