Thursday, November 03, 2011

Megacolon : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is a Megacolon?

Megacolon is an abnormal dilation of the colon (a part of the large intestines). The dilatation is often accompanied by a paralysis of the peristaltic movements of the bowel. In more extreme cases, the feces consolidate into hard masses inside the colon, called fecalomas (literally, fecal tumor), which can require surgery to be removed.

A human colon is considered abnormally enlarged if it has a diameter greater than 12 cm in the cecum (it is normally less than 9 cm), greater than 6.5 cm in the rectosigmoid region and greater than 8 cm for the ascending colon. The transverse colon is usually less than 6 cm in diameter.

Megacolon is an enlarged colon that is unable to move stool. A megacolon can be either acute or chronic. Megacolon is also called giant colon and Hirschsprung's disease.

Symptoms of a Megacolon

The most common symptoms of megacolon are:
  • severe constipation
  • malnutrition
  • absence of bowel movements

What causes Megacolon?

There are many different causes of megacolon. Some of the most common causes are:
  • Nerve damage
  • Deficiencies in the colon
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Narcotic use
  • Chagas disease

Treatment Options for a Megacolon

The treatment depends on the cause of megacolon. If megacolon is causes by Hirschprung's Disease, treatment usually involves removal of the part of the colon that does not work properly. Other treatments are focused on the cause. These treatments may involve reducing use of narcotics or increasing the intake or dietary fiber.

How is Megacolon Diagnosed?

Megacolon is diagnosed through an examination of the rectum. Your doctor may also perform a test called anorectal manometry. Anorectal manometry is a test where a balloon is dilated in the rectum to check the functionality of the nerves in the rectum.

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