Course And Prognosis

The duration of chronic intestinal obstruction depends largely upon the nature of the particular affection and upon the degree of the obstruction. If there are no complications and the patients lead a perfectly rational life (with regard to diet and treatment) the condition may last a number of years. In other cases the symptoms of intestinal obstruction rapidly progress and life is then of short duration unless something radical is done.


The diagnosis of chronic intestinal obstruction is warranted by the presence of gradually increasing symptoms of constipation, and attacks of intestinal colic with a temporary stoppage of the bowels following each other at not too great intervals. The acute attack of obstruction in these cases of chronic intestinal stenosis is as a rule much milder than in acute occlusion of the bowel not due to a chronic condition. In the chronic form there is either no collapse at all or it is but slightly marked. Increased intestinal peristalsis is often encountered in the chronic form, especially during an attack of obstruction, while in the acute form this is quite rare and, if present, less pronounced. The barrel-shape of the abdomen is often present in chronic intestinal stenosis and is of diagnostic value (Fig. 36). The different forms of intestinal obstruction can be recognized by their varied symptoms which have already been described above.

Patient M

Fig. 36. - Patient M. with Chronic Intestinal stenosis (stricture of Descending Colon), showing the Barrel-shaped Abdomen.