Intestinal Pseudo obstruction



Intestinal pseudo-obstruction is caused by problems with the muscles and nerves of the intestine.

This problem may be caused by things such as:

  • Taking certain medicines, such as opioids, narcotics, and calcium channel blockers
  • Trauma
  • Abnormal tissue growth
  • Connective tissue diseases, such as scleroderma and lupus
  • Surgery
  • Infections
  • Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson disease
  • Metabolic problems, such as diabetes
  • Heart disease

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in men who are over 60 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Being hospitalized or in a care center
  • Obesity



A person may have:

  • Belly pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A swollen belly
  • Problems passing gas or stool (poop)
  • Diarrhea (less common)


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done to look for problems.

Images may be taken of the belly. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan

A colonoscopy may be done to view the inside of the large intestine.



Any underlying problems will need to be treated. The goal of treatment is to make it easier for foods and liquids to pass through the intestines. Options are:

Nutritional Support

IV feeding may be needed to lower the risk of malnutrition.


Medicines that are causing this problem may be stopped or changed. Medicine may also be given to:

  • Lower the risk of bacterial infections
  • Treat muscle problems in the intestines


People who are not helped by other methods may need colonoscopic decompression therapy. A colonoscope will be used to remove trapped air from the colon.


People with severe problems may need surgery. Part of the intestine may be removed.


This problem cannot always be prevented. Some steps that may help are:

  • Avoiding medicines that may cause symptoms, such as opioids
  • Following home care advice after surgery

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.