As the Cleveland Clinic explains, small bowel obstruction happens when an obstruction or blockage forms in the small intestine, hindering the passage of digested food (solid or liquid) and nutrient absorption. When the small bowel is blocked, waste and gases accumulate above the obstruction over time. Per the experts at Saint Luke’s Health System Kansas City, failure to treat small bowel obstruction promptly can lead to tissue death or bowel rupture, and may even cause death.
Obstructions in the small bowel may be the result of cancerous tumors, inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis), or hernias (via the Cleveland Clinic). They may also be caused by adhesion, or the post-surgical formation of scar tissue; this is said to be the top risk factor for small bowel obstruction in U.S. patients. In the case of Lisa Marie Presley, the coroner’s report points to adhesion following a gastric bypass operation that the musician had several years earlier. Meanwhile, the toxicology report noted that “traces” and “therapeutic levels” of certain opioids were detected in her blood. While opioids are known to cause constipation (which can in turn cause small bowel obstruction), Presley’s small bowel obstruction was directly linked to the aforementioned adhesion.