Can You Die From a Bowel Blockage?

Intestinal obstruction occurs when a blockage in the bowels prevents the contents of the small or large intestine from passing through 12. The condition can become serious and may result in life-threatening complications, so prompt treatment is necessary.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


If you have an intestinal obstruction, you may experience symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal distension or fullness, constipation or breath odor 12.

Mechanical Obstruction

Bowel obstruction is generally caused by mechanical problems, which means that something like hernias, tumors, impacted feces, gallstones, foreign materials or abnormal tissue growth is blocking the way.


Paralytic ileus, caused by lung or kidney disease, infection, problems with blood supply, certain medications or chemical, mineral or electrolyte imbalances, is one of the primary causes of obstruction in children. When ileus occurs, the intestine is not physically blocked but does not function correctly.


According to the Mayo Clinic, decreased absorption of fluids and nutrients due to obstruction can cause dehydration and shock, which may lead to kidney failure 2. Additionally, tissue death because of limited blood supply can cause peritonitis, an abdominal infection that needs urgent medical attention. Both of these conditions can be fatal if not properly treated.


Treatment for bowel blockage requires hospitalization, where a nasogastric tube is threaded through the nose and into the stomach to decompress the intestine. Surgery may be necessary in cases of obstruction with tissue death.