What are the causes of Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 15, 2011
Quick Bites

  • CIP is a rare, potentially disabling gastrointestinal disorder.
  • It is characterized by abnormalities affecting the GI tract.
  • It is caused by a problem in how the muscles and nerves in the intestines work.
  • Pseudo-obstruction in children is usually congenital.


Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIP) is a rare disorder of gastrointestinal motility where integrated contractions (peristalsis) in the intestinal tract change and become ineffective. When this happens, nutritional requirements cannot be sufficiently encountered.

"Motility" refers to the contraction of muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. To help normal digestion and the absorption of nutrients, food content is prompted through the GI tract by coordinated contractions in a process called "peristalsis." Peristalsis depends upon the coordination between the muscles, nerves, and hormones in the digestive tract.

In CIP the intestines respond as if there is a true mechanical blockage. However, when tests are performed, no physical evidence of blockage is found. There is no unique sign or symptom that allows a positive diagnosis of the pseudo-obstruction.

 Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction

Causes of Pseudo-Obstruction

The term "pseudo-obstruction" refers to a group of gastrointestinal disorders with similar characteristics that can have a variety of causes. The symptoms of intestinal pseudo-obstruction are caused by a problem in how the muscles and nerves in the intestines work. When tests show that the dysfunction is caused by unsynchronized contractions, the disorder is classified as neurogenic (arising from the nerves). If the dysfunction is caused by weak or absent contractions, the disorder is classified as myogenic (arising from the muscles).

In some patients, pseudo-obstruction may progress throughout the digestive tract. This includes the esophagus and stomach as well as the intestines. The bladder may also become affected.

Pseudo-obstruction in children is usually congenital, or present at birth. It may also be acquired, such as after an illness.

Image: Getty

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