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Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction

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Definition & Facts

Intestinal pseudo-obstruction is a rare condition in which you have symptoms of intestinal obstruction, but doctors can’t find anything blocking your intestines. Two forms of this condition are chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction and acute colonic pseudo-obstruction.

Health care professional examining a toddler who is being held by her father.

Symptoms & Causes

Symptoms of intestinal pseudo-obstruction may include abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea and vomiting. Intestinal pseudo-obstruction occurs when nerve or muscle problems slow or stop the movement of food, fluid, air, and waste through your intestines.


To diagnose intestinal pseudo-obstruction, your doctor will review your medical and family history, perform a physical exam, and order tests to rule out a physical obstruction, diagnose pseudo-obstruction, and check for causes.


Doctors treat chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction with diet changes and nutrition support, medicines, decompression, and sometimes surgery. Doctors treat acute colonic pseudo-obstruction with conservative management and sometimes other treatments.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

If you have chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, your doctor may recommend changing your diet to help reduce symptoms and prevent complications, such as malnutrition. If you have acute colonic pseudo-obstruction, your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink anything for a short time.

Clinical Trials

The NIDDK conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including digestive diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

Related Research

View More Digestive Disease Information

Last Reviewed October 2021

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Michael Camilleri, M.D., Mayo Clinic