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Paralytic Ileus

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What is Paralytic ileus?

This is the stoppage or slowdown of intestinal movement and can lead to bowel obstruction, which is an intestinal blockage that impairs the passage of your digestive contents which includes fluids and feces. It is not an actual physical obstruction. Basically it is a paralysis of your small or large intestines and it does not have to be a complete paralysis for this to occur. Although it can hit anyone regardless of age, gender, or race, there are some people who are more at risk for developing paralytic ileus who are people who have or who have had the following:


  • Abdominal cancers
  • Conditions that affect your nerve and muscle functions like Parkinson’s disease
  • Infections
  • Use medications such as narcotics, sedatives, or opioids that slow the contractions that move your food through your digestive tract.

Symptoms of Paralytic ileus

The symptoms of this medical condition will primarily affect your gastrointestinal system.

Some of the common symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal bloating, swelling, or distension.
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul smelling breath
  • Gs
  • Having no bowel sounds
  • Nausea that may or may not include vomiting.
  • Stomach spasms or pain
  • Excessive belching
  • Rapid rate of breathing

Symptoms that could be an indicator of a serious condition and require immediate attention include:

  • Having severe abdominal swelling, spasms and pain.
  • Having the inability to pass gas or eliminate feces.

In addition, because there is lack of movement in the intestines, you may also develop adhesions because of the intestines rub against each other.

Paralytic Ileus Causes

There are many different reasons that a person might have paralytic ileus which can include:

  • Injuries or trauma to their spinal cord
  • Imbalances in their electrolytes
  • Certain medications such as Discase, Chymopapain, and Chymodiatin.
  • Inflammation or infection of the intestines or stomach called gastroenteritis.
  • A side effect of having abdominal surgery when there is an obstruction of the mesenteric artery which is the artery that supplies blood to your abdomen.
  • Chemotherapy medication such as Vincristine and Vinblastine.
  • Bowel obstruction that can be total or partial obstruction.
  • A malfunction of the muscles and nerves in the intestines that impairs the digestion and movement.
  • Appendicitis
  • Inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.
  • Botulism
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis which is a life threatening complication of diabetes.
  • Neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis, which is the disease that causes the death of the intestinal tissue of newborns.
  • Metabolic disorder called porphynia.

Paralytic Ileus Treatment

Most of the time when you go see your physician for paralytic ileus they will admit you to the hospital for treatment. This treatment will usually involve placing a tube through your stomach or nose to help alleviate the symptoms. The tube will help to release the air and drain the fluid from your stomach. They may also put you in the hospital for monitoring. One thing to note is that with any treatment for paralytic ileus, nothing is given by mouth to avoid making the problem worse.

Some of the treatments that can be used to help relieve the distension and swelling of your stomach can include:

  • In order to allow the obstruction to pass the physician may put you on certain dietary restrictions.
  • Replace your electrolytes
  • Use intravenous fluids to help provide nutrients to your body.
  • Medications to help promote the contractions that will move the food through your digestive tract.
  • Changing medications if that is the cause.

Sometimes it is necessary to have surgery done to help prevent the death of tissue with some of the obstructions in which the surgeon will remove a section of your bowel. You may also need surgery to treat any problems such as treating adhesions that a person might develop because of an obstruction that has been there awhile. If because of a spinal injury the bowels are permanently paralyzed you will need to discuss with your physician which treatment would be best for managing the problem for the rest of their lives.

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