What Is Toxic Megacolon?
large intestine is the lowermost section of your digestive tract. It includes
your appendix, colon, and rectum. The large intestine completes the digestive
process by absorbing water and passing waste (stool) to the anus.
conditions can cause the large intestines to malfunction. One such condition
is toxic megacolon or
megarectum. Megacolon is a general term that means the abnormal dilation of the
colon. Toxic megacolon is a term meant to express the seriousness of the
megacolon is a rare, life-threatening widening of the large intestine that develops
within a few days. It’s usually a complication of inflammatory bowel disease
(such as Crohn’s disease).
What Causes Toxic
root causes of toxic megacolon are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs).
Inflammatory bowel diseases cause swelling and irritation in parts of your
digestive tract. These diseases can be painful and can cause permanent damage
to your large and small intestines. Examples of IBDs are ulcerative colitis and
megacolon occurs when inflammatory bowel diseases cause the colon to expand,
dilate, and distend. When this happens, the colon is unable to remove gas or
feces from the body. If gas and feces build up in the colon, your large
intestine may eventually rupture.
of your colon is a life-threatening condition. If your intestines rupture,
bacteria that are normally present in your intestine release into your abdomen,
which can cause a serious infection and even death.
important to note that there are other types of megacolon. Examples include:
- pseudo-obstruction megacolon
- colonic ileus megacolon
- congenital colonic dilation
these conditions can expand and damage the colon, they’re not due to
inflammation or infection.
What Are the Symptoms of
toxic megacolon occurs, the large intestines rapidly expand. Symptoms of the
condition may come on suddenly and may include:
- abdominal pain
- bloating of the abdomen (distention)
- abdominal tenderness
- rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- bloody or profuse diarrhea
- painful bowel movements
megacolon is a life-threatening condition. If these symptoms develop, you
should seek immediate medical attention.
How Is Toxic Megacolon
you develop symptoms of toxic megacolon, your doctor can confirm your diagnosis
through a physical exam and other tests. They will ask you about your health
history and whether you have any inflammatory bowel diseases. Your doctor will
also check to see if you have a tender abdomen and if they can hear bowel
sounds through a stethoscope placed on your abdomen.
your doctor suspects that you have toxic megacolon, they may order more tests.
Additional tests to confirm this diagnosis include:
- abdominal X-rays
- CT scan of the abdomen
- blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and blood
How Is Toxic Megacolon
treatment of toxic megacolon usually involves surgery. If you develop this
condition, you will be admitted to the hospital. You will receive fluids to
prevent shock. Shock occurs when an infection in the body causes your blood
pressure to decrease rapidly. Shock is a life-threatening condition.
your blood pressure is stable, you will need surgery to correct toxic
megacolon. In some instances, toxic megacolon may produce a tear or perforation
in the colon. This tear must be repaired to prevent bacteria from the colon
from entering into the body.
if there’s no perforation, the tissue of the colon may be weakened or damaged
and may need to be removed. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need
to undergo a colectomy.
This procedure involves either a complete or partial removal of the colon.
and after the surgery, you will take antibiotics. These medications will help
prevent a serious infection known as sepsis. Sepsis causes a severe reaction in the body that is often
How Can I Prevent Toxic Megacolon?
megacolon is a complication of inflammatory bowel diseases. If you have one of
these conditions, you should follow your doctor’s advice. This may include
making lifestyle changes and taking certain medications. Following your
doctor’s advice will help control the symptoms of IBD and reduce the likelihood
that you’ll develop toxic megacolon.
What Is the Long-Term
you develop toxic megacolon and promptly seek treatment at a hospital, your
long-term outlook will be good. Seeking emergency medical treatment for this
condition will help prevent complications, including:
- perforation (rupture) of the colon
complications of toxic megacolon occur, your doctor may have to take serious
measures. Complete removal of the colon may require you to have an ileostomy or
ileoanal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) put in place. These devices will remove
feces from your body after your colon is removed.