Dilation of Narrowed Digestive Tract

When the digestive tract (gastrointestinal tract) is repeatedly inflamed over a long period of time, it may cause scarring. Scar tissue is generally not as flexible as healthy tissue. This may lead to a narrowing of the digestive tract in affected areas. These narrowed areas are called strictures, and they may be mild or severe, depending on how much they block the contents of the bowel from passing through the narrowed area.

Symptoms of a Narrowed Digestive Tract

A narrowing of the digestive tract may not cause any symptoms if the blockage (obstruction) of the bowel is not significant However, if the narrowing hinders the smooth passage of intestinal contents, patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • If the narrowing causes complete obstruction of the bowel, patients may experience severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and an inability to pass gas or stools.
  • Perforation of the bowel from increased contractions in attempt to push the intestinal contents through the narrowing.

Dilation of the Intestinal Narrowing

If it is due to inflammation, narrowing of the digestive tract may be treated with medication to reduce inflammation and stop scarring. If the scarring is severe, a surgical dilation of the intestinal tract may be necessary.

The doctor (Gastroenterologist) will examine the narrowing with an endoscope, then insert special equipment to stretch open the intestinal blockage. This usually involves a balloon that is passed through the endoscope and inflated at the narrowed area. The force of the balloon dilates the narrowing to a bigger size, thus opening it to make it wider. In some cases, a single dilation is sufficient. If the narrowing recurs, endoscopy and balloon dilation may be carried out again.. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Surgery to Remove Narrowed Parts of Intestinal Tract (Stricturoplasty)

Surgery sometimes is needed to treat intestinal narrowing. The procedure involves cutting out the entire narrowed segment of bowel, then re-attaching the bowel. Another surgical option; stricturoplasty, may be used to widen the blockage. In this procedure, the surgeon simply cuts open the narrowed section of the intestine lengthwise and then sews the tissue closed crosswise so as to enlarge the width of the bowel’s passageway. Dr. Shanker Pasupathy is one of the Singapore Gastroenterologist that are expert on this operation.