Intestinal obstruction, a disorder that afflicts both children and adults, is associated with significant morbidity. Early recognition and appropriate management can prevent life-threatening complications; however, considerable controversies exist regarding the ideal method of diagnosis and treatment. This article provides a comprehensive overview of risk factors for small and large bowel obstruction. The pathophysiologic process is related to the clinical findings. A summary of diagnostic methods with an evaluation of their relative merit is presented. Preventive, and medical, surgical, and palliative therapies are described, with an emphasis on the actions that an advanced practice nurse can implement.