Understanding the Causes and Risks of a Small Bowel Obstruction

Understanding the Causes and Risks of a Small Bowel ObstructionAll you want to do when you’re having a medical crisis is to feel better. When you enter the door to a hospital, it’s rarely a choice you had to think about for very long because you’re reached a point of needing expert medical care. You don’t scrutinize every decision a doctor or surgeon may make because we’ve been taught that it’s okay to put blind faith in their abilities. After all, why else would they be trusted enough to have been given such monumental responsibility?

When you require surgery, you just expect to come out of the procedure feeling better than before you went in. For some patients who have abdominal surgeries, this can be far from the case if they have a missed bowel obstruction or a shoddy procedure creates one. Either way, it’s you who should understand the risk – and a potential deadly one at that.

What causes a small bowel obstruction after surgery?

A small bowel obstruction occurs when there is a blockage in your small intestine, which is the highway that food and liquid travels through your body before being eliminated. This small intestine is where most injuries occur during surgical procedures worldwide. Some obstructions may become immediately apparent while others could form over time and only become an emergency once the blockage has become obvious through symptoms.

When related to surgery, the biggest cause of bowel obstructions are intestinal adhesions. If you have abdominal surgery of any kind, there is always the chance that the surgeon could nick your small intestine requiring emergency surgery to repair the hole. Whether or not it occurs through medical negligence, anytime there has been an injury, there is a healing process that must take place. During that healing period, bands of fibrous tissue in the abdominal cavity can form into thick scar tissue between the intestine and other organs. This tissue can build up and block the intestinal tract.

Procedures and related conditions that can result in these adhesions include:

  • Endoscopy, where a small camera is inserted down the throat to look at your intestine
  • Colonoscopy, where a small camera is inserted through the rectum to diagnose colon cancer
  • Accidental perforation of a bowel during abdominal surgery
  • Peritonitis, an infection that could set in after perforating a bowel, which can cause blood poisoning and even sepsis

Additionally, women undergoing surgical procedures for gynecological conditions tend to be at risk for medical malpractice when it comes to failure to properly diagnose bowel obstructions, mistaking them for other conditions. Ovarian cysts and endometriosis can mask small bowel obstructions without proper lab testing being performed.

Risks of failing to recognize an existing small bowel obstruction

There are warning signs to look for when a small bowel obstruction has occurred. Time is of the essence in diagnosing and repairing this often fatal injury. Some of the complications that you can experience with a blocked intestine include tissue death to parts of your intestine if blood flow is blocked long enough, or intestinal tearing. Both of these situations can cause contents from your intestine to leak causing infection that may lead to shock.

Signs and symptoms of small intestine obstruction include:

  • Cramping abdominal pain that comes and goes
  • Chronic feeling of movement in your abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas
  • A lump or swelling of the abdomen
  • Feces mixed with blood and mucus
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

A bowel obstruction is a serious condition that can’t be delayed in treating without extremely serious consequences. The effects of the symptoms can be lasting even if the intestine is repaired, requiring you to seek future medical treatment to deal with the aftermath.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling 202.463.1999.