Abdominal Sounds

Overview

Abdominal sounds, otherwise called bowel sound, usually takes place during digestion. It is a hollow sound made within the small and large intestines of the stomach during digestion in a bid to mix the food. These hollow sounds can be similar to those made by water moving through pipes. They can be high-pitched, gurgling, rumbling or growling that even you can hear them.

Although they are not bad sounds, their frequent occurrences become an emergency case.

When other symptoms such as fever, feelings of fullness, excess gas, frequent diarrhea, constipation, sudden weight loss, nausea and vomiting, heartburn that does not respond to OTC (over-the-counter) treatments or bloody stools etc. frequently come alongside these sounds, a medical assistance and care are urgently needed.

 

Causes of abdominal sounds

It could be normal or abnormal.

Normal;

  1. Food movements through the intestines
  2.  Liquid movements through the intestines
  3.  Digestive juice movements through the intestines
  4. Air movement in the intestines.
  5. Hunger due to the contraction of the muscles of the stomach

 

Abnormal

This can be caused by either of two things – Medication or a disease.

 

Abdominal sounds

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

Types of abdominal sounds

  1. Normal
  2. Missing and Hypoactive (reduced): it is possible for there not to be any abdominal sound. It is also possible for it to be low due to low intestinal activities. Common causes of missing and hypoactive abdominal sounds are; general anesthesia, abdominal surgery, partial or complete intestinal blockage, infection of the abdominal cavity infections (e.g. peritonitis), perforated ulcers, radiation injury, intestinal damage, certain medications (e.g. codeine) etc.
  3. Hyperactive (increased) due to increase activities in the intestine especially after eating or during diarrhea. This sound can usually be heard by others sitting or standing close to you. Infections leading to diarrhea or inflammation, digestive tract bleeding, laxative use, food allergies, bleeding ulcers, Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory intestinal disease) etc. are common causes of hyperactive bowel sounds.

On a general note, missing, hypoactive or hyperactive sounds can be caused by any of the following;

digestive tract infection, trauma, hernia, blood clot, low blood flow to the intestines,  tumor, abnormal potassium or calcium ions levels in the blood, intestinal obstruction, temporary slowing of intestinal movement etc.

 

Tests for abdominal sounds

  1. Auscultation: After a medical review of your history, a stethoscope will be used to check the sounds made by your heart. When there is a bowel obstruction, high-pitched sounds can be heard from the stethoscope. Although these high-pitched sounds can often be heard even without the aid of a stethoscope.
  2. Blood tests:  Different blood tests are carried out to rule out organ damage, infection or an inflammation.
  3. Endoscopy:  It is a test that uses a camera attached to a small, flexible tube to capture pictures within the stomach or intestines.
  4. CT scan: X-ray images are taken to view the abdominal region.

 

Treatment for abdominal sounds

As usual, treatment will be based on the cause of the symptoms especially for missing, hypoactive and hyperactive sounds.

  1. Limiting the intake of foods that have the tendency for to produce gas in your intestines is a good way to start. Carbonated drinks, fruits, whole-grain products, artificial sweeteners, beans, and vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts etc. are examples of what to watch out for. If you have lactose intolerance, you might have to avoid taking dairy products.

 

  1. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, then you might have to use probiotics.

 

  1. Avoid swallowing air as much as possible. You can do this by not eating too quickly or drink through a straw. When you chew gum, you can be predisposed to having excess air in your intestine.

 

Medical emergencies

Some cases of abdominal pains will definitely require medical help. They are;

Bowel evacuation

If you experience bleeding or upon diagnosis have severe damage or obstruction of the bowel, you will have to be placed on an emergency care in the hospital. Your stomach or intestines will be emptied by passing a pipe through your nose or mouth. This is to allow your stomach and intestine to rest and this might mean that you will be allowed to eat for a very short time.

Fluid administration

This is also done to allow the intestine to rest. Fluids are injected into your body through your veins.

Surgical approach

This might be a treatment option when there is a serious intestinal blockage, injury or infections.

Medications

For certain gastrointestinal condition like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diseases, medications will be prescribed for you by your doctor.

 

Outlook for abdominal sounds

This is especially for the abnormal sounds and their severity. Should you notice frequent and unusual abdominal sounds, please seek for medical care. This is because certain complications can be life-threatening if they are left untreated. For instance, tissue death can occur from intestinal blockage due to a cut off in blood supply to the intestine.

Tumors or Crohn’s disease may require that the treatment will be long-term.

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