Ileus is a partial or complete non-mechanical blockage of the small and/or large intestine.
There are two types of intestinal obstructions, mechanical and non-mechanical. Mechanical obstructions occur because the bowel is physically blocked and its contents cannot pass the point of the obstruction. This happens when the bowel twists on itself (volvulus) or as the result of hernias, impacted feces, abnormal tissue growth, or the presence of foreign bodies in the intestines. By contrast, non-mechanical obstruction, called ileus, occurs because the rhythmic contractions that move material through the bowel (called peristalsis) stop.
The total rate of bowel obstruction due both to mechanical and non-mechanical causes is one in 1,000 people. Meconium ileus accounts for 9–33 percent of bowel obstructions in newborns.
Causes and symptoms
Ileus is most often associated with an infection of the peritoneum (the membrane lining the abdomen) or other intra-abdominal infections such as appendicitis. It is one of the major causes of bowel obstruction in infants and children. Another common cause of ileus is a disruption or reduction of the blood supply to the abdomen. Handling the bowel during abdominal surgery can also cause peristalsis to stop, so people who have had abdominal surgery are more likely to experience ileus.