Collapsed Colon Symptoms: Its Causes And How Do You Fix It?

Colon is a medical term used frequently for large intestine. It extends from Cecum (the first part of large intestine) to rectum, the last part of large intestine. Colon is like a tube which remains expanded due to presence of air and fecal matter (stool). When both are absent there is nothing that can keep the colon patent and as a result it collapses.

Collapsed colon is significant clinical and radiological finding in medical practice. It indicates something is wrong in small intestine, in most cases a small bowel obstruction. Collapsed colon is detected on X-ray and CT scan of abdomen.

In addition to it, there is dilatation or expansion of small intestine of radiological finding, besides the symptoms that we will discuss later on.

Colon collapse is fixed by repairing small bowel obstruction. The treatment may be conservative or surgical. It may depend on the severity of the condition.

What Causes A Collapsed Colon?

Large intestine (Colon) collapse is observed in patients having obstruction in the small intestine. Before the obstruction site, the small intestine becomes dilated. Normally when there is no obstruction, the content of small intestine is passed forward into the large intestine with peristaltic wave like movements.

This repeated contraction and relaxation of intestinal muscles is also carried on in intestinal obstruction. However, due to obstruction the content of small intestine cannot move further, but at the same time the remaining content present in large intestine both stool and gas is passed off. Since nothing comes from small bowel, the colon gets collapsed once the residual stool and gas is evacuated.

Here are some of the reasons for intestinal blockage:

  • Strangulation of hernia.
  • Intestinal adhesions due to previous abdominal surgeries.
  • Volvulus (Intestinal twisting).
  • Intussusception of the intestine (a section of intestine overlapping the other part).
  • Carcinoma of cecum or first part of colon. The malignant tumor may cause obstruction. After the content below the obstruction is evacuated the remaining portion of colon collapses.
  • Obstruction of intestine due to presence of foreign body.
  • Polyps and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms Of A Collapsed Colon

The symptoms of collapse of colon are frequently associated with those of intestinal obstruction. One of the main symptoms is absolute constipation. Other symptoms may be that of intestinal obstruction and they are;

  • Severe cramps in abdomen. The spasms are episodic.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdomen tenderness
  • Distension of abdomen and this is mainly due to intestinal obstruction and not due to collapse of colon.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

How Do You Fix A Collapsed Colon?

Since large bowel collapse is usually secondary to intestinal obstruction, attempts are made to remove the obstruction. This may depend on the cause of intestinal obstruction. Primary approach is conservative treatment which consists of providing nutrients through intravenous route. With it, proper hydration is also maintained.

Patient is advised to remain nil by mouth, meaning no food is ingested for some time. If the obstruction is relieved, patient is advised to take fluids and after few days semisolid food.

When obstruction is complete surgical repair of the intestine may be needed. A part of small intestine may be removed and the two healthy ends are reconnected. After repair of intestinal obstruction, colon becomes patent.


  1. Caroline said:

    I feel so frustrated, I am a mother to 20 year old who is on the autistic spectrum (diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 18 but who has had lifelong NHS Dx food allergies and ASD food related sensitivities i.e. taste, texture, smell). Her late paternal grandma had a collapsed colon (ileostomy – which was never talked about when she was alive).

    My daughter’s grandmother was a very private person, she rarely talked about intimate issues (could she have been autistic too?). So I wish ‘professionals’ would think outside the box.

    August 4, 2017
  2. Coffey said:

    I have just recently had a CT Scan of my chest because I have developed a bad cough. In this Scan they found a large nodule on my thyroid which was by chance. Also there is a mass on my small bowel. I had gone to the ER with horrific pain in my abdomen in February, they also did a CT Scan of my abdomen and told the scan showed nothing.

    Due to my current health scare I have collected my past scans so that oncologist can see them. I happened to read the report from the ER and besides other things it said the majority of my colon is collapsed. How in the world did they make the call to send me home saying no findings? I just can’t understand that. I still have horrible pain in my abdomen.

    November 2, 2017

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