Bowel Sounds Definition and Types

bowel sounds

The noises of the gastrointestinal tract. Listening to sounds through a stethoscope (auscultation) provides important clues about the function of the gastrointestinal tract.

Normal noises vary in tone and loudness according to the activity of the bowel though follow characteristic patterns the doctor can identify.

Excessive noises often accompany excessive bowel activity such as diarrheagastroenteritis, and flare-ups of inflammatory bowel disease (ibd).

Reduced sounds occur when bowel activity slows, such as between meals or when there is an intestinal obstruction. Narcotic medications and anesthetic agents also slow bowel function, and reduced bowel sounds may persist for several days after surgery.

The absence of sounds signals a nonfunctioning bowel, which can be due to intestinal obstruction or, in an infant, a gastrointestinal atresia. The absence may be a sign of a medical emergency that requires surgical intervention.


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