Out of all the weird ways a person could die, constipation ranks high. An article recently published in BMJ Case Reports documented the case of a 24-year-old man with chronic constipation. The young man had to go to a clinic after the abdominal pain became unbearable. For the past week, he also had persisting diarrhea.
Initial scans showed that most of his large intestine was filled with feces. All he needed was oral laxatives, and he was ready to go back home. Or so he thought…
Two days after taking the laxatives, he went back to the hospital, having more abdominal pains. After the second examination, doctors discovered that the man’s life was in grave danger: his organs started to shut down because of the gravity of constipation.
A Rare Condition: Megacolon and Megarectum
A CT scan revealed that the patient had a condition called megacolon and megarectum. This condition makes the colon severely dilated, and the back-up caused the man’s colon to tear open. The kidneys started to fail, and the blood had a high level of acid.
The patient was immediately taken to the operating room. Surgeons repaired the rupture and relieved the colon of the fecal build-up.
The author of the case explains that “patients with this condition report recurrent episodes of constipation, abdominal pain, distension, and bloating starting in childhood or adolescence.” The rare condition can be fatal, just in the patient’s case, who was saved by the emergency intervention.
The author added that there is an effective non-surgical approach for patients with chronic megacolon and constipation: regular enemas to cleanse the colon, oral laxatives, and some dietary advice.
The condition can be acute or chronic and can be caused by different factors, such as a treatment, genetic defects or Crohn’s disease. Sometimes, the disease has not identifiable reason, thus being called idiopathic megacolon.
“An earlier appreciation during a previous admission that this was a rare presentation of chronic idiopathic megacolon and megarectum may have prevented the perforation and elective surgery could have been planned,” the doctors concluded.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.