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Alternative namesAbdominal sounds are the noises made by the intestines.
Abdominal sounds (bowel sounds) are made by the movement of the intestines as they push food through. Since the intestines are hollow, bowel sounds can echo throughout the abdomen much like the sounds heard from water-pipes.
The majority of the bowel sounds are harmless and simply indicate that the gastrointestinal tract is working. Abdominal sounds are evaluated by listening to the abdomen with a stethoscope ( auscultation ).
While the majority of bowel sounds are normal, there are some instances where abnormal bowel sounds provide valuable information about the health of the body.
Ileus is a condition in which the examiner is unable to hear any bowel sounds when listening to the abdomen. This indicates a lack of intestinal activity. Many medical conditions may lead to this but it is important to evaluate it further because gas, secretions, and intestinal contents can accumulate and rupture the bowel wall.
For example, absent bowel sounds after a period of hyperactive bowel sounds are significant and can indicate that rupture of the intestines, or strangulation of the bowel with subsequent death ( necrosis ) of the bowel tissue may have occurred.
Most of the sounds you hear your stomach and intestines make are due to normal digestion and are no need for concern. However, if other troubling symptoms occur, a doctor can use a stethoscope to listen to abdominal sounds and determine if there is a problem.
Many conditions may cause hyperactive or hypoactive bowel sounds. Most are harmless and require no treatment. However, the following are a list of more serious conditions that can cause abnormal bowel sounds.
Hyperactive, hypoactive, or absent bowel sounds:
Call your health care provider if
Call your health care provider if you experience any symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, prolonged diarrhea or constipation, bleeding from your rectum, or any other symptoms that are not normal for you.
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. Medical history questions concerning abdominal sounds may include:
For physical examination, temperature, pulse , respiratory rate, and blood pressure are checked. Careful abdominal examination will be performed. Examination with a stethoscope may reveal abnormal bowel sounds which may have gone unnoticed by the patient. Diagnostic tests to determine the cause may include:
While many conditions are managed in a health care provider's office, if there are signs of an actual or impending emergency, hospitalization may be necessary. Measures may be taken to empty the bowel. This is done by placing a tube through the nose or mouth into the stomach or intestines (nasogastric tube) and suctioning the intestinal contents out.
Update Date: 2/13/2004Sreeni Jonnalagadda, M.D., Interventional and Pancreatobiliary Endoscopy, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT