Blind loop syndrome

Alternative names
Stasis syndrome; Stagnant loop syndrome


Blind loop syndrome occurs when part of the intestine becomes blocked, so that digested food slows or stops moving through the intestines. This causes too much bacteria to grow in the intestines and causes problems in absorbing nutrients.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

When a section of the intestine is blocked by blind loop syndrome, bile salts needed to digest fats become ineffective, resulting in fatty stools and poor absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin B12 deficiency may occur because the extra bacteria which develop in this situation use up all of the vitamin.

Blind loop syndrome is a complication that occurs after many operations, including subtotal gastrectomy (surgical removal of part of the stomach), operations for extreme obesity, or as a complication of inflammatory bowel disease or scleroderma.


  • Loss of appetite  
  • Nausea  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Fullness after a meal  
  • Fatty stools  
  • Unintentional weight loss

Signs and tests
During a physical examination, the doctor may notice a mass or distention of the abdomen. Possible tests include:

  • Abdominal x-ray  
  • Abdominal CT scan  
  • Contrast enema study


The initial treatment generally involves antibiotics for the bacterial overgrowth, along with vitamin B12 supplementation. If antibiotics are not successful, surgical correction of the obstruction to allow better flow of food through the intestine may be considered.

Expectations (prognosis)

Many patients respond to antibiotics. If surgical repair is required, the outcome is typically very good.


  • Intestinal infarction (death of intestine)  
  • Complete intestinal obstruction  
  • Perforation (hole) of intestine

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if symptoms occur that are suggestive of blind loop syndrome.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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