(630) 527-6450  |  Locations

Ileus occurs when there is a problem with motility in the small or large intestine (bowel). Motility is the  process of moving waste through the digestive tract. With normal motility, muscles in the bowel walls contract to move waste along. Signals from nerves tell the muscles when to contract. With ileus, motility slows down or stops completely. As a result, waste cannot move through the bowels and out of the body. This can cause abdominal discomfort and other symptoms. Treatment is needed to restore motility and relieve symptoms.

Causes of IleusIleus

  • Abdominal surgery
  • Certain infections, such as that of the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen)
  • Injury to blood vessels that supply blood to the abdomen
  • Electrolyte imbalance, such as low levels of sodium or potassium
  • Certain medications, such as strong pain medications
  • Certain kidney or lung diseases
  • Certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis


Symptoms of Ileus

  • Abdominal swelling or bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to keep food down
  • Inability to pass stool or gas


When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F or higher
  • Abdominal swelling or pain that won’t go away
  • Inability to pass stool or gas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Getting full very easily with only small amounts of food or drink


Diagnosing Ileus

Tests for confirming ileus include:

  • X-ray and CT scan imaging
  • Blood tests to check for infection and other problems such as dehydration.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series


Treating Ileus

In most cases, ileus resolves by itself. The goal is to manage symptoms until motility returns to normal. Care in a hospital may include:

  • No food or drink given by mouth. This allows your bowels to rest.
  • An intravenous (IV) line placed in a vein in your arm or hand to give fluids and nutrition, and medications as needed. Medications can help improve motility or relieve pain. They may also be used to treat any underlying infections or conditions.
  • A soft, thin, flexible tube (nasogastric tube) is inserted through your nose and into your stomach. The tube is used to remove extra gas and fluid in your stomach and bowels. This helps to relieve symptoms such as pain and swelling.
  • In rare cases, problems may occur. Other treatments, such as surgery, may then be done.
  • After treatment, most people recover completely.


Suburban Gastroenterology