Collapsed colon: 8 Causes, 10 Symptoms, 11 Treatments

A condition of a collapsed colon is also known as large intestine obstruction or large bowel obstruction. Other than the colon obstruction there is also a small intestine obstruction.

Small intestine obstruction is where the small intestine develops a blockage making it impossible for fluids and digested foods to pass through to the colon. While colon obstruction is where fluids and digested foods smoothly move from the small intestines to the colon but ones in the colon they cannot be released.

Collapsed colon, on the other hand, is a condition where the colon is in great shape to pass out the fluids and digested fluids but the small intestine does not pass the composition to the colon. Collapsed colon is a result of a small intestine obstruction.

When the small intestine blocks it makes it impossible for food and fluids to pass on to the colon. As a result, the large intestine collapses.

The collapsed intestine is a serious condition because if not treated fast it can lead to rupture of the colon which is fatal.

Collapsed colon is a condition common in the elderly, people who have been through surgery on the abdomen, people who have a history of cancer and, people who have been through the abdomen or pelvis radiation.

Intestinal obstruction may be either temporary that’s some of the fluids, and digested food does not pass through, and these type of obstruction is easily corrected. The other kind of intestinal obstruction is complete blockage is where not even a drop of fluids can be passed through.

Causes of a collapsed colon:

collapsed colon
Collapsed colon
Image source: iytmed.com
  1. Intestinal twisting

Collapsed colon is caused by twisting of the intestine, whereby the intestine twist around itself and its supporting tissues resulting in a bowel obstruction. This condition is called volvulus. Intestinal twisting cause’s blockage of the intestine resulting to collapsed colon.

  1. A hernia

A hernia is a disorder where an organ exerts or squeezes itself through its surrounding tissue. If the surrounding muscles are weak and cannot hold the organ a hernia develops.

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In this case, a bowel pushes itself through a weak spot in the abdominal wall blocking the intestines causing intestinal blockage. Ones you have an intestinal obstruction you suffer from collapsed colon.

  1. Strictures

A stricture is a condition that involves narrowing of a body structure. For example narrowing of the intestinal walls or the esophageal tube or even the urethra.

Intestinal strictures are common after healing of chronic intestinal inflammation scar tissues are formed. Scar tissues formed are responsible for Strictures in the intestine causing blockage.

  1. Abdominal adhesion

Abdominal adhesion refers to binding tissues or organs which were not initially connected by scar tissues. This condition is common after abdominal surgery. Abdominal adhesions cause intestinal obstructions which lead to collapsed colon.

  1. A Colonic Tumor

When a tumor grows on walls of the colon, it damages the walls of the colon stopping the muscles from working. Ones the muscles of the colon stop functioning you suffer from a collapsed colon.

  1. Feces lump

Lump on feces is a condition commonly seen with the elderly whereby a large mass of feces is not released from the colon. The wastes in the colon cause blockage which leads to collapsed colon.

  1. Diverticulitis condition

Diverticulitis is a digestion disease that attacks the colon. It involves the growth of diverticular (abnormal pouches) on the lining of the intestine. The diverticular may get an infection or swell causing intestinal obstruction.

It is this obstruction that causes collapsed colon.

  1. Pseudo-obstruction

Pseudo-obstruction is an intestinal disorder disabling passage of food through the intestines. Its symptoms are similar to those of intestinal obstruction. Pseudo-obstruction can be passed from parent to child.

Symptoms of collapsed colon:

Symptoms of a collapsed colon are similar to those of intestinal obstruction. They include:

  • Constipation
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • You can’t pass gas
  • Swollen belly
  • Bad breath
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Tender abdomen

Diagnosis of collapsed colon:

  1. X-rays and CT scan

Images from the x-rays and CT scan clearly show what is in the colon. The x-ray will help identify a swelling in the colon.

  1. Blood test

To diagnose collapsed colon, your doctor may find a need to carry out blood tests. The blood tests will help show possible dehydration and, the presence of an infection. While carrying out the blood test, the doctor also gets to know the blood count, the condition of your liver and even the levels of electrolytes in your blood.

  1. Physical exam

For physical exams, the doctor enquires whether you are having constipation, vomiting, and passing stool as expected. By pressing your abdomen, your doctor can identify a swelling in your stomach.

  1. Barium enema

Your doctor will give you a cloudy fluid that contains barium to consume. Barium covers the bowel and then an x-ray is taken. The test will show which parts of the collapsed intestine are damaged.

  1. Colonoscopy

Your doctor will insert a long tube through your throat into the colon. At the end of this colonic tube, there is a camera that will transmit images to a screen enabling the doctor to view all that is in the colon.

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Treatment for collapsed colon:

Temporarily collapsed bowel:
  1. Where you have a temporarily collapsed colon where some fluids and digested foods can still be passed, you can go to the hospital to stabilize the condition. Stabilization, in this case, involved being added fluids in your body and sucking out air and fluids that may be causing swelling of the abdomen.
  2. Once your condition is stabilized your doctor may advise you to take meals with low-fiber. Meals with low fiber are easier to process.
  3. To treat temporary obstruction, your doctor may ask you not to eat for some time. Not eating will help relieve the blockage treating the collapsed bowel.
Complete collapsed colon:
  1. Stent: 

A stent is a self-expanding metal made from a wire mesh. Your doctor will use an endoscope or a colonoscopy to insert the stent in your colon. The stent will go through your through into the colon.

Once there the stent starts self-expanding enlarging the colon, this way the blockage is eased enabling the fluids and digested food to pass through smoothly.

  1. Another option is to pass a tube through the nose into the intestine to reduce swelling in the abdomen and vomiting by draining the fluids in the stomach.
  2. Your doctor may also give you an option of inserting a tube called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube through an opening made on the outside of the stomach. This procedure is called venting gastrostomy. It helps ease vomiting and nausea.
  3. If all the above treatments don’t work or the condition is severe, the only option becomes surgery. During surgery, the blockage and any other damaged part of the intestine are removed. The other parts of the colon are reconnected.
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However, if the damage was significant, an alternative way of passing out fluids and wastes by use of tubes is created. Alternative form of passing out scraps may be temporary or permanent.

  1. Electrolyte correction

Electrolyte correction is a form of treatment that aims to get the chemical levels in the blood back to normal. Chemicals include sodium and, chloride and may be given to the patient through an infusion.

  1. If your doctor diagnosis you to be suffering from pseudo-obstruction, you will be put under observation for one night. If the problem does not go away by its self as it always does your doctor will give you a prescription that will help enable passage of fluid and digested foods to the colon.
  2. For a patient who has an enlarged colon, the patient is put under treatment called decompression whereby a tube is placed into the anus and travels all the way to the colon. This treatment helps provide relief for an enlarged colon.
  3. For quick relief of mild symptoms, your doctor may give you a prescription for medication to ease the symptoms before significant intervention is don. Prescribed medication includes pain relievers, antibiotics to prevent infection and anti-nausea medication ease vomiting and nausea.

After taking the above treatments, some patients suffer from specific side effects. A stent may form scars in the colon which bleed. In worst case scenarios the stent may wander away in the body.

Upon removal of a large part of the colon, there arises a need for alternative methods of passing out wastes. This alternative method may be for a lifetime.

To some patients, the obstruction may reoccur even after being treated.

When should you visit your doctor?

Immediately you experience constipation, pain in the abdomen, swelling of the stomach or even fever, it is necessary that you visit your doctor so that your collapsed intestines can be treated at an early stage.

Early treatment helps treat the collapsed intestines before they worsen and also helps avoid long-term complications.

References:
  1. http://www.tandurust.com/digestive-disorders/collapsed-colon-causes-symptoms.html
  2. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/intestinal-obstruction
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/intestinal-obstruction
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15287-large-bowel-intestinal-obstruction
  5. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-is-bowel-obstruction#2

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