An ileus is a type of bowel obstruction in which intestinal peristalsis temporarily ceases. Peristalsis is the wavelike contractions that push food through the intestine. Paralytic ileus is one of the most common causes of intestinal blockage in infants and children. Left untreated, ileus can lead to infection, jaundice, electrolyte imbalance and perforation of the intestine.
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Abdominal or spinal surgery may cause ileus. Other causes include trauma or injury, infection and electrolyte imbalance. Heart attack and certain drugs such as narcotics and blood pressure medications can also impact intestinal function. Ischemia, in which blood supply to part of the intestine is impaired, is another cause.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of ileus include crampy abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Constipation can also occur. The abdomen may become distended, or swollen. To confirm an ileus diagnosis, your physician may order an X-ray or CT scan. Imaging tests help your physician determine if you have a paralytic ileus or a mechanical obstruction, according to MayoClinic.com.
If you have an ileus, you should not eat until it is resolved. Proper nutrition is important to prevent malnutrition and weight loss, as well as supply necessary nutrients for healing. This is accomplished by tube feeding. Tube feeding can be done either through an IV in the vein or a tube that goes from the nose to the stomach. This allows the bowel to rest while the underlying cause of the ileus is treated. You may need antibiotics if infection is the cause. Medications can be given to stimulate peristalsis, according to the National Institutes of Health. IV tube feeding can be custom-mixed by a pharmacist to provide an exact amount of calories, vitamins, trace minerals and fats.
Since ileus is often caused by injury, surgery, or a medical condition, little can be done to prevent it, according to the University of Southern California. It is important to follow your physician's recommendations regarding diet once your ileus has resolved. Generally, no certain diet is ordered and you may be able to resume your normal diet.