• General surgeons specialize in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities affecting the abdomen, breasts, digestive tract, endocrine system and skin.
  • Pediatric surgeons specialize in the surgical care of diseases, injuries and deformities in premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents.
  • Colon and rectal surgeons specialize in the surgical care of disorders of the colon, rectum and anus. 

How is bowel obstruction repair performed?

Your bowel obstruction repair will be performed in a hospital. Your surgeon will make an incision to access the abdominal cavity and locate the blocked area of the intestine. Your surgeon then removes or corrects the blockage and sews the intestines back together. 

Surgical approaches to a bowel obstruction repair

Your surgeon will perform a bowel obstruction repair using one of the following approaches:

  • Minimally invasive surgery involves inserting special instruments and a laparoscope through a few small incisions in the abdomen. The laparoscope is a thin, lighted instrument with a small camera. It sends pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen. Your surgeon watches the screen as a guide while performing surgery. Minimally invasive surgery generally involves a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. This is because it causes less trauma to tissues and organs. Your surgeon will make small incisions instead of a larger one used in open surgery.  Surgical tools are threaded around muscles and tissues instead of cutting through or displacing them as in open surgery.
  • Open surgery involves making a large incision in the abdomen. An open surgery incision allows your doctor to directly see and access the surgical area. Open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery. Open surgery requires a larger incision and more cutting and displacement of muscle and other tissues than minimally invasive surgery. Despite this, open surgery may be a safer or more effective method for certain patients.

Your surgeon may combine a minimally invasive procedure with open surgery. Your surgeon may also decide after starting minimally invasive surgery that you need open surgery to safely and effectively complete the surgery. 

Your surgeon will advise you on which procedure is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different bowel obstruction repair procedures and ask why your doctor will use a certain type for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform your bowel obstruction repair using general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the surgery and do not feel any pain. 

You may also receive a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion is an injection or continuous drip of liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.

What to expect the day of your bowel obstruction repair

The day of your surgery, you can generally expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent form.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. Your care team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will have
  • A tube is placed in your windpipe to protect and control breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV and insert a urinary catheter into your bladder. The catheter collects urine during surgery.  A tube is also inserted through your nose and into your stomach to collect fluids that your stomach produces and to protect you from vomiting.  This tube is usually removed in one to three days once you are passing gas.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout your surgery and recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.