Treatment Options For Distended Colon: Its Causes And Symptoms

In medical parlance large intestine is also referred as colon. Distended colon means a portion of large intestine has dilated (enlarged) enormously. The condition is also called mega colon. Distention of large intestine can exert pressure on the walls of intestine and paralyzes the peristaltic movement of the intestine. Since there is no peristalsis, the feces does not move ahead and they form hard mass. Ultimately it affects the digestive process.

Several causes attribute distension of colon but the most prominent cause is intestinal obstruction. Person suffering from distended colon needs medical intervention as early as possible.

If not treated, distended colon can perforate and cause problems that can be life threatening.

What Causes A Distended Colon?

  • Hirschsprung’s disease: it is a congenital condition much more common in males than females. In this developmental disorder, there is complete absence of parasympathetic ganglion nerve cells. Due to absence of nerve cells, the peristaltic movement of large intestine does not occur. The wastes present in colon starts to accumulate leading to swelling of colon. The collected waste and fecal matter becomes hard and may perforate the intestinal wall. In ninety percent, the symptoms appear within three days after the birth.
  • Pseudo intestinal obstruction: people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease or Kawasaki disease are susceptible to partial obstruction in colon. In this condition the intestinal motility is hampered. The digested food, gas and waste do not move forward and start accumulating in the large intestine. For this reason the patient complains of constipation besides other symptoms of distended colon. People who are bed ridden or those who are taking certain anti psychotic medications are at risk of suffering from distended colon.
  • Ulcerative colitis and pseudo-membranous colitis are two inflammatory bowel diseases that can give rise to distention of colon.
  • In some patients the dilatation and immobility of colon is due to chronic poisoning of the intestinal wall by large doses of purgatives taken for many years.
  • Complete obstruction of colon due to a tumor or fecal matter or ball of round worms can also cause distention of colon.

Symptoms Of Distended Colon

  • Abdominal pain: pain in abdomen due to distended colon is the hallmark symptom. Patient may complain of cramping pain. The pain may be continuous or spasmodic. Slight pressure on abdomen can be painful.
  • Abdominal swelling: it is also a main symptom of distended abdomen. Formation of gases results in bloating of abdomen. Swelling of abdomen is accompanied with tenderness.
  • Constipation is inevitably present with distended abdomen.
  • Vomiting and nausea are other symptoms that may be present with distension of abdomen.
  • Fever may result due to bacterial infection if distension is not treated in time.
  • Fissured anus and perianal soiling are other symptoms that may be seen with distended colon, especially in old people.

Treatment For Distended Colon

The treatment of distended colon may depend on underlying disease. But before starting any treatment the doctor would like to ascertain the diagnosis. He will advise the patient to do certain tests such as ultra sonogram, X-ray barium enema of large intestine. If necessary he may also advise the patient for CT scan of abdomen. All these tests help the doctor in diagnosing the disease.

  • If distention of colon is caused due to Hirchsprung’s disease, the patient may need surgical excision of the entire segment of colon that is devoid of ganglion nerve cells.
  • In case of pseudo obstruction, patient may be kept on empty stomach for few days till the distention reduces. During this period the patient may require suction of gastric content through nasal tube. The needed nutrients and electrolyte will be administered intravenously.
  • If there is fissure in anus it has to be treated appropriately.
  • Regular bowel training is necessary if constipation is the cause for distension of colon. Besides, dietary changes may be necessary to change he bowel habits.