Sajak’s Blocked Intestine Surgery: No Puzzle for Surgeons

Premier Health Now
Pat

“Wheel of Fortune” game show host Pat Sajak underwent emergency surgery for a blocked intestine in early November. 

As Sajak recovers following a successful surgery, Premier Health Now asked Dayton general surgeon Benjamin Bates, MD, of Gem City Surgeons about reasons and solutions for a blocked instestine.

Although he doesn’t know the particulars of Sajak’s case, Dr. Bates notes, “The most common causes of a blocked intestine are scar tissue from a previous surgery, hernias, or cancer. Obstructions of the small intestine are more common than those of the large intestine.”

Dr. Bates says symptoms of a blocked intestine include a very bloated abdomen, cramping pains, vomiting, and cessation of bowel function, such as passing gas or stool.

“In patients who have had previous abdominal surgery, we will rest the bowel (nothing by mouth) give IV fluids, and watch them closely,” he says. “About 85 percent of these cases will resolve without surgery. If the symptoms don’t resolve after two or three days, we may do exploratory surgery.”  

If needed, surgeons can perform a procedure to remove scar tissue. They also can fix a hernia, remove a tumor, or eliminate other causes of blockage.

Dr. Bates says cases of a blocked intestine can range from being easily fixed to being severe and not easily treated. “Anyone who has vomiting, a noticeably bloated belly, and cessation of bowel function should seek medical attention. It’s good to be assessed early.”

Recovery time is generally six to eight weeks, with restrictions on heavy lifting and strenuous activities. The time can be shorter or longer depending on the severity and cause of the blockage.