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Intestinal Obstruction

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Please add profiles for those who had intestinal obstruction or it contributed to their cause of death.

Intestinal obstruction is a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through your small intestine or large intestine (colon). Causes of intestinal obstruction may include fibrous bands of tissue (adhesions) in the abdomen that form after surgery, an inflamed intestine (Crohn's disease), infected pouches in your intestine (diverticulitis), hernias and colon cancer.

Without treatment, the blocked parts of the intestine can die, leading to serious problems, such as a hole, or perforation, in the wall of your intestine, severe infection, shock and death. However, with prompt medical care, intestinal obstruction often can be successfully treated.

Signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction include:

  • Crampy abdominal pain that comes and goes
  • Sever abdominal cramps
  • Severe bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Diarrhea

When to see a doctor:

  • Because of the serious complications that can develop from intestinal obstruction, seek immediate medical care if you have severe abdominal pain or other symptoms of intestinal obstruction.
    • Many people with bowel obstructions are older and may have other serious illnesses, so a bowel obstruction may be life-threatening.


  • Bowel obstructions can happen in your small or large intestine, but they’re more likely to be in the small intestine.
  • An obstruction can be partial, which may resolve without surgery. A complete blockage is more likely to need intestinal surgery.
  • The most common causes of intestinal obstruction in adults are:
    • Intestinal adhesions or scar tissue — bands of fibrous tissue in the abdominal cavity that can form after abdominal or pelvic surgery and can make the bowel too narrow for anything to pass through.
    • Colon cancer
    • Stomach cancer
    • Ovarian cancer
    • Tumors within the small intestine
  • In children, the most common cause of intestinal obstruction is telescoping of the intestine (intussusception).
    • Swallowing objects
    • Meconium plug in newborns (meconium is the stool babies first pass)
  • Other possible causes of intestinal obstruction or blockage include:
    • Hernias — portions of intestine that protrude into another part of your body.
    • Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease.
    • Diverticulitis — a condition in which small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in the digestive tract become inflamed or infected
    • Twisting of the colon (volvulus) -- can close off the intestines, stopping anything from passing through.
    • Impacted feces -- when a large, hard mass of stool gets stuck in digestive tract & can’t be pushed out the normal way.
    • A tumor or other type of growth inside your bowel could block the passage.
    • Damaged blood vessels leading to the bowel can cause some bowel tissue to die.
    • If the bowel’s muscle walls become paralyzed (unable to move), they can’t move anything along.
    • Radiation to the abdominal area
    • Advanced lung cancer, breast cancer or melanoma that has spread to the bowel.
    • Abdominal cavity inflammation (peritonitis) resulting when a portion of the intestine has ruptured, leading to fever and increasing abdominal pain. This is a life-threatening emergency requiring surgery. Ruptured appendix can also be a cause of this.


  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction (paralytic ileus) can cause signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction, but doesn't involve a physical blockage. In paralytic ileus, muscle or nerve problems disrupt the normal coordinated muscle contractions of the intestines, slowing or stopping the movement of food and fluid through the digestive system.
  • Paralytic ileus can affect any part of the intestine. Causes can include:
    • Abdominal or pelvic surgery
    • Infection, such as gastroenteritis or appendicitis
    • Certain medications that affect muscles and nerves, including tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline  and imipramine (Tofranil), and opioid pain medications, such as those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Oxycontin)
    • Muscle and nerve disorders, such as Parkinson's disease
    • Some diseases can contribute to intestinal obstruction:
      • Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other nerve & muscle disorders
      • Hirschsprung’s disease, a disorder where there is a lack of nerves in sections in the large intestines
      • Disorders that cause nerve injury, such as diabetes mellitus
      • Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland

Risk factors:

  • Diseases and conditions that can increase your risk of intestinal obstruction include:
    • Abdominal or pelvic surgery, which often causes adhesions — a common intestinal obstruction
    • Crohn's disease, which can cause the intestine's walls to thicken, narrowing the passageway
    • Cancer in your abdomen, especially if you've had surgery to remove an abdominal tumor or radiation therapy


  • Untreated, intestinal obstruction can cause serious, life-threatening complications, including:
    • Tissue death. Intestinal obstruction can cut off the blood supply to part of your intestine. Lack of blood causes the intestinal wall to die. Tissue death can result in a tear (perforation) in the intestinal wall, which can lead to infection.
    • Infection. Peritonitis is the medical term for infection in the abdominal cavity. It's a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical and often surgical attention.


  • The prognosis for non-ischemic cases of SBO (small bowel obstruction) is good with mortality rates of 3–5%, while prognosis for SBO with ischemia is fair with mortality rates as high as 30%.
  • Cases of SBO related to cancer are more complicated and require additional intervention to address the malignancy, recurrence, and metastasis, and thus are associated with poorer prognosis.
  • All cases of abdominal surgical intervention are associated with increased risk of future small-bowel obstructions. Statistics from U.S. healthcare report 18.1% re-admittance rate within 30 days for patients who undergo SBO surgery.
  • More than 90% of patients also form adhesions after major abdominal surgery.[26] Common consequences of these adhesions include small-bowel obstruction, chronic abdominal pain, pelvic pain, and infertility.
  • Intestinal obstruction accounts for approximately 15 percent of all emergency department visits for acute abdominal pain. Complications of intestinal obstruction include bowel ischemia and perforation.
  • Morbidity and mortality associated with intestinal obstruction have declined since the advent of more sophisticated diagnostic tests, but the condition remains a challenging surgical diagnosis.

Notables who died from Intestinal obstruction:

  1. Pathetic Facts - Famous actors dies as a result of Bowel obstruction
  2. List 25 - 25 Celebrities Who Died Tragic Deaths. updated 16 Jan 2018

Ned Sparks (1883-1957) - (aka: Edward Arthur Sparkman, Ned A. Sparks or Edward A. Sparkman) - Canadian Actor; (Wikipedia - Ned Sparks; Find A Grave Ned Sparks, Memorial ID 6035)

Claude Dauphin (1903-1978) - Claude Marie Eugene Dauphin or Claude Marie Eugène Legrand - French actor; (Wikipedia - Claude Dauphin (actor))

Heather O'Rourke (1975-1988) - actress; (source: Young actress Heather O’Rourke, known as the terrified girl in Poltergeist, died of intestinal stenosis, a severe bowel obstruction. The obstruction caused an infection which led to septic shock. She died from complications during surgery to remove an acute bowel obstruction.

Jerry Weintraub (1937-2015) (aka: Jerome Charles Weintraub) - (Daily - Revealed: Award-winning producer Jerry Weintraub, 77 died after painful bowel rupture triggered two heart attacks); (Wikipedia - Jerry Weintraub)

  • Ellen Foster () - ([[id=rVLOhGt1BX0C&pg=PA652&lpg=PA652&dq=notables+who+died+of+intestinal+obstruction&source=bl&ots=mcxFhQM8fk&sig=tzQDGU3FEkpnE_-K-oQR76zVcHw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiN77S6nM_cAhVK7lQKHUr-BzIQ6AEwB3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=notables%20who%20died%20of%20intestinal%20obstruction&f=false Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol 1. by Radcliffe College. Publisher: Harvard University Press, 1971]) “Died of an intestinal obstruction in Washington in 1910, at sixty-nine. She was buried there in Oak Hill Cemetery. This pioneer woman lawyer had led the most significant challenge to Frances Willard’s control of the powerful WCTU and had gone on to become a successful practical politician.”
  • Chick Webb (1905-1939) - (Jazz and Death: Medical Profiles of Jazz Greats. by Frederick J Spencer. Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2002. page 235.) “Immediate cause of death--Intestinal obstruction and uraemia [sic] (8 days?), due to Tuberculous peritonitis (8 days?), due to Tuberculosis of right kidney (?) Tuberculous cystitis (?). Other conditions--Tuberculosis of spine, old.”; (Wikipedia - Chick Webb); Find A Grave - Chick Webb. Memorial ID 20860

Resources & Additional Reading