Intestinal pseudo-obstruction (false blockage) is a condition that causes symptoms like those of a bowel obstruction (blockage). But when the intestines are examined, no obstruction is found. A problem in how the muscles and nerves in the intestines work causes the symptoms.
Pseudo-obstruction symptoms include cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, fewer bowel movements than usual, and loose stools. Over time, pseudo-obstruction can cause bacterial infections, malnutrition, and muscle problems in other parts of the body. Some people also have bladder problems.
Diseases that affect muscles and nerves, such as lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or Parkinson's disease, can cause symptoms. When a disease causes the symptoms, the condition is called secondary intestinal pseudo-obstruction. Medications that affect muscles and nerves such as opiates and antidepressants might also cause secondary pseudo-obstruction.
To diagnose the condition, the doctor will take a complete medical history, do a physical exam, and take x rays. The usual treatments are nutritional support (intravenous feeding) to prevent malnutrition and antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Medication might also be given to treat intestinal muscle problems. In severe cases, surgery to remove part of the intestine might be necessary.