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Volvulus

A volvulus is the twisting or axial Axial Computed Tomography (CT) rotation Rotation Motion of an object in which either one or more points on a line are fixed. It is also the motion of a particle about a fixed point. X-rays of a portion of the bowel around its mesentery Mesentery A layer of the peritoneum which attaches the abdominal viscera to the abdominal wall and conveys their blood vessels and nerves. Peritoneum: Anatomy. The most common site of volvulus in adults is the colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy; most frequently the sigmoid volvulus. Patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship typically present with symptoms of bowel obstruction Bowel obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis such as abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways, distension, vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia, and constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation/ obstipation Obstipation Large Bowel Obstruction. In severe cases, signs of bowel ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage and gangrene Gangrene Death and putrefaction of tissue usually due to a loss of blood supply. Small Bowel Obstruction ( tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children, hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension, hematochezia Hematochezia Gastrointestinal Bleeding, and peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury) may also be present. Clinical suspicion prompts imaging to confirm the diagnosis and surgery is the definitive treatment. For stable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with sigmoid volvulus, surgery may be preceded by endoscopic detorsion. However, immediate surgery is required for colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis or ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage.

Last updated: Dec 5, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Overview

Definition

A volvulus is the twisting of a segment of bowel on its mesentery Mesentery A layer of the peritoneum which attaches the abdominal viscera to the abdominal wall and conveys their blood vessels and nerves. Peritoneum: Anatomy, which results in bowel obstruction Bowel obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Ascaris/Ascariasis.

Epidemiology

  • 3rd most common cause of large bowel obstruction Large Bowel Obstruction Large bowel obstruction is an interruption in the normal flow of intestinal contents through the colon and rectum. This obstruction may be mechanical (due to the actual physical occlusion of the lumen) or functional (due to a loss of normal peristalsis, also known as pseudo-obstruction). Malignancy and volvulus are the most common causes of mechanical large bowel obstruction. Large Bowel Obstruction after cancer and diverticulitis Diverticulitis Inflammation of a diverticulum or diverticula. Diverticular Disease
  • Types of colonic volvulus:
  • Sigmoid volvulus:
    • Older men (mean age 70-years-old)
    • Sometimes affects younger patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with colonic dysmotility
  • Cecal volvulus: common in middle-aged women

Etiology

Sigmoid volvulus:

  • Long mesentery Mesentery A layer of the peritoneum which attaches the abdominal viscera to the abdominal wall and conveys their blood vessels and nerves. Peritoneum: Anatomy with a narrow base to allow twisting
  • Redundant elongated colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy usually from chronic constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation
  • Risk factors:
    • Age (50% of patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship > 70-years-old)
    • Institutionalized/nursing home residents
    • Neurologic disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis Sclerosis A pathological process consisting of hardening or fibrosis of an anatomical structure, often a vessel or a nerve. Wilms Tumor)
    • Previous history of volvulus
    • High-fiber diet 
    • Chronic constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation and laxative Laxative Agents that produce a soft formed stool, and relax and loosen the bowels, typically used over a protracted period, to relieve constipation. Hypokalemia abuse
    • Megacolon Megacolon Megacolon is a severe, abnormal dilatation of the colon, and is classified as acute or chronic. There are many etiologies of megacolon, including neuropathic and dysmotility conditions, severe infections, ischemia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Megacolon (Hirschsprung’s disease, Chagas disease Chagas disease Infection with the protozoan parasite trypanosoma cruzi, a form of trypanosomiasis endemic in central and south america. It is named after the brazilian physician carlos chagas, who discovered the parasite. Infection by the parasite (positive serologic result only) is distinguished from the clinical manifestations that develop years later, such as destruction of parasympathetic ganglia; chagas cardiomyopathy; and dysfunction of the esophagus or colon. Trypanosoma cruzi/Chagas disease)
    • Pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care

Cecal volvulus:

  • Usually congenital Congenital Chorioretinitis
  • Incomplete dorsal mesenteric fixation of the cecum Cecum The blind sac or outpouching area of the large intestine that is below the entrance of the small intestine. It has a worm-like extension, the vermiform appendix. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy 
  • Elongated mesentery Mesentery A layer of the peritoneum which attaches the abdominal viscera to the abdominal wall and conveys their blood vessels and nerves. Peritoneum: Anatomy

Pathophysiology

Clinical Presentation

Sigmoid volvulus

  • Onset is usually slow and insidious.
  • Abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways with gradual distention
  • Constant pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways with superimposed colicky episodes
  • Nausea Nausea An unpleasant sensation in the stomach usually accompanied by the urge to vomit. Common causes are early pregnancy, sea and motion sickness, emotional stress, intense pain, food poisoning, and various enteroviruses. Antiemetics, constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation
  • Typically vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia a few days after the onset of pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways

Cecal volvulus

  • Presentation is variable Variable Variables represent information about something that can change. The design of the measurement scales, or of the methods for obtaining information, will determine the data gathered and the characteristics of that data. As a result, a variable can be qualitative or quantitative, and may be further classified into subgroups. Types of Variables:
    • Insidious onset of intermittent abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways and cramping
    • Acute sudden onset of abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways
    • Symptoms last from hours to days
    • Severe, constant pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways may indicate ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage or perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis.
  • Accompanying symptoms:
    • Nausea Nausea An unpleasant sensation in the stomach usually accompanied by the urge to vomit. Common causes are early pregnancy, sea and motion sickness, emotional stress, intense pain, food poisoning, and various enteroviruses. Antiemetics and bilious vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia
    • Constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation
    • Obstipation Obstipation Large Bowel Obstruction (inability to pass flatus or stool)

Diagnosis

History

  • Chronic constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation
  • Long-term laxative Laxative Agents that produce a soft formed stool, and relax and loosen the bowels, typically used over a protracted period, to relieve constipation. Hypokalemia use
  • Neurologic disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease)
  • Medications affecting bowel motility Motility The motor activity of the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal Motility (psychotropics, opiates Opiates Opiates are drugs that are derived from the sap of the opium poppy. Opiates have been used since antiquity for the relief of acute severe pain. Opioids are synthetic opiates with properties that are substantially similar to those of opiates. Opioid Analgesics)

Physical exam

  • Distended tympanitic abdomen
  • Can be asymmetrically distended with emptiness on the right or left side
  • Tenderness to palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination
  • Signs of ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage or perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis:
    • Abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways out of proportion to physical exam
    • Peritoneal signs (guarding, rigidity Rigidity Continuous involuntary sustained muscle contraction which is often a manifestation of basal ganglia diseases. When an affected muscle is passively stretched, the degree of resistance remains constant regardless of the rate at which the muscle is stretched. This feature helps to distinguish rigidity from muscle spasticity. Megacolon, rebound tenderness Rebound Tenderness Acute Abdomen)
    • Tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children
    • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever
    • Hematochezia Hematochezia Gastrointestinal Bleeding or blood on a digital rectal exam

Laboratory studies

  • Complete blood cell count:
    • Frequently normal
    • Significant leukocytosis Leukocytosis A transient increase in the number of leukocytes in a body fluid. West Nile Virus may indicate ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage/ perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis.
  • Chemistry:
    • Frequently normal
    • Hypokalemia Hypokalemia Hypokalemia is defined as plasma potassium (K+) concentration < 3.5 mEq/L. Homeostatic mechanisms maintain plasma concentration between 3.5-5.2 mEq/L despite marked variation in dietary intake. Hypokalemia can be due to renal losses, GI losses, transcellular shifts, or poor dietary intake. Hypokalemia/metabolic alkalosis Alkalosis A pathological condition that removes acid or adds base to the body fluids. Respiratory Alkalosis with protracted vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia
    • Metabolic acidosis Acidosis A pathologic condition of acid accumulation or depletion of base in the body. The two main types are respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis, due to metabolic acid build up. Respiratory Acidosis/elevated lactic acid with ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage/ perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
  • Pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care test: obtained in all women of child-bearing age

Imaging

  • Upright abdominal X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests:
    • Sigmoid volvulus: coffee Coffee A beverage made from ground coffee beans (seeds) infused in hot water. It generally contains caffeine and theophylline unless it is decaffeinated. Constipation bean sign (dilated sigmoid colon Sigmoid colon A segment of the colon between the rectum and the descending colon. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy projecting to the right upper quadrant Right upper quadrant Anterior Abdominal Wall: Anatomy)
    • Cecal volvulus:
      • Kidney bean sign ( dilated colon Dilated colon Megacolon is a severe, abnormal dilatation of the colon, and is classified as acute or chronic. There are many etiologies of megacolon, including neuropathic and dysmotility conditions, severe infections, ischemia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Megacolon loop extending from right side to mid-abdomen)
      • Signs of small bowel obstruction Small Bowel Obstruction Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is an interruption of the flow of the intraluminal contents through the small intestine, and is classified as mechanical (due to physical blockage) or functional (due to disruption of normal motility). The most common cause of SBO in the Western countries is post-surgical adhesions. Small bowel obstruction typically presents with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distention, constipation, and/or obstipation. Small Bowel Obstruction ( SBO SBO Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is an interruption of the flow of the intraluminal contents through the small intestine, and is classified as mechanical (due to physical blockage) or functional (due to disruption of normal motility). The most common cause of SBO in the Western countries is post-surgical adhesions. Small bowel obstruction typically presents with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distention, constipation, and/or obstipation. Small Bowel Obstruction): distended loops, air-fluid levels
    • Pneumoperitoneum Pneumoperitoneum A condition with trapped gas or air in the peritoneal cavity, usually secondary to perforation of the internal organs such as the lung and the gastrointestinal tract, or to recent surgery. Pneumoperitoneum may be purposely introduced to aid radiological examination. Perforated Viscus: indicates perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
  • Abdominal CT scan:
    • Confirmatory test
    • Whirl sign: 
      • Pathognomonic for volvulus 
      • Indicates twisting of the mesentery Mesentery A layer of the peritoneum which attaches the abdominal viscera to the abdominal wall and conveys their blood vessels and nerves. Peritoneum: Anatomy
    • Small bowel Small bowel The small intestine is the longest part of the GI tract, extending from the pyloric orifice of the stomach to the ileocecal junction. The small intestine is the major organ responsible for chemical digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is divided into 3 segments: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Small Intestine: Anatomy dilatation (especially cecal volvulus)
    • Significant colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy dilatation with distal decompression and paucity of gas in the rectum Rectum The rectum and anal canal are the most terminal parts of the lower GI tract/large intestine that form a functional unit and control defecation. Fecal continence is maintained by several important anatomic structures including rectal folds, anal valves, the sling-like puborectalis muscle, and internal and external anal sphincters. Rectum and Anal Canal: Anatomy
    • Signs of ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage:
      • Pneumatosis intestinalis Pneumatosis intestinalis A condition characterized by the presence of multiple gas-filled cysts in the intestinal wall, the submucosa and/or subserosa of the intestine. The majority of the cysts are found in the jejunum and the ileum. Necrotizing Enterocolitis (air in the bowel wall) and portal venous gas Portal Venous Gas Imaging of the Intestines
      • Thickened bowel wall (due to loss of venous/lymphatic drainage)
      • Free intraperitoneal Intraperitoneal Peritoneum: Anatomy fluid 
      • Mesenteric fat stranding
      • Differential wall enhancements (poor uptake of intravenous (IV) contrast into the wall of the affected bowel)
      • Free air indicates perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis.
  • Contrast enema:
    • Rarely needed for diagnosis
    • Sigmoid volvulus:
    • Cecal volvulus: bird’s beak sign, dye does not enter the small bowel Small bowel The small intestine is the longest part of the GI tract, extending from the pyloric orifice of the stomach to the ileocecal junction. The small intestine is the major organ responsible for chemical digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is divided into 3 segments: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Small Intestine: Anatomy

Management

Initial supportive management

  • IV fluid and correction of electrolyte imbalance
  • Nil per os (NPO) 
  • Nasogastric decompression if vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia/signs of SBO SBO Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is an interruption of the flow of the intraluminal contents through the small intestine, and is classified as mechanical (due to physical blockage) or functional (due to disruption of normal motility). The most common cause of SBO in the Western countries is post-surgical adhesions. Small bowel obstruction typically presents with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distention, constipation, and/or obstipation. Small Bowel Obstruction
  • IV antibiotics for suspected ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage/ perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis/signs of sepsis Sepsis Systemic inflammatory response syndrome with a proven or suspected infectious etiology. When sepsis is associated with organ dysfunction distant from the site of infection, it is called severe sepsis. When sepsis is accompanied by hypotension despite adequate fluid infusion, it is called septic shock. Sepsis and Septic Shock

Sigmoid volvulus

Sigmoidoscopy Sigmoidoscopy Endoscopic examination, therapy or surgery of the sigmoid flexure. Colorectal Cancer Screening with detorsion:

  • For stable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with no suspicion of ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage or perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
  • Flexible or rigid
  • Rectal tube should be left in place for decompression and prevention of immediate recurrence.
  • Success rate: 75%–95%
  • Recurrence: up to 84%
  • Definitive surgery is recommended unless a very high surgical risk patient.
  • Decompression should be attempted if feasible prior to surgery:
    • Converts emergent surgery into elective surgery and allows preoperative planning
    • Allows for successful primary anastomosis (helps avoid colostomy)

Surgery:

  • Indications:
    • Peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury, signs of ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage/ perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis
    • Unsuccessful endoscopic detorsion
    • Successful detorsion in patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship who are acceptable surgical candidates
  • Procedures:
    • Sigmoid colectomy with primary anastomosis: stable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship with viable colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy
    • Sigmoid colectomy with end colostomy ( Hartmann’s procedure Hartmann’s procedure A procedure that involves resection of involved colon segment with end colostomy Diverticular Disease): unstable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship, perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis, ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage
Sigmoid volvulus during surgery

Sigmoid volvulus (intraoperative view)

Image: “Sigmoid volvulus during surgery” by General Surgery Department, Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, Karachi 74800, Pakistan. License: CC BY 2.0

Cecal volvulus

  • Direct surgical intervention after stabilization
  • Colonoscopic decompression increases the risk of perforation Perforation A pathological hole in an organ, blood vessel or other soft part of the body, occurring in the absence of external force. Esophagitis and is not performed.
  • Procedures:
    • Hemodynamically stable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship: ileocecal resection or right colectomy with ileocolic anastomosis 
    • Unstable patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship:
      • Detorsion and cecopexy (for viable bowel) +/- cecostomy tube for decompression
      • Right colectomy with ileostomy Ileostomy Surgical creation of an external opening into the ileum for fecal diversion or drainage. This replacement for the rectum is usually created in patients with severe inflammatory bowel diseases. Loop (continent) or tube (incontinent) procedures are most often employed. Large Bowel Obstruction (for ischemic/necrotic bowel)

Prognosis Prognosis A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease based on a individual’s condition and the usual course of the disease as seen in similar situations. Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas

Overall mortality Mortality All deaths reported in a given population. Measures of Health Status:

  • Cecal volvulus: 6.64%
  • Sigmoid volvulus: 9.44%

Predictors of mortality Mortality All deaths reported in a given population. Measures of Health Status:

  • Bowel gangrene Gangrene Death and putrefaction of tissue usually due to a loss of blood supply. Small Bowel Obstruction/ peritonitis Peritonitis Inflammation of the peritoneum lining the abdominal cavity as the result of infectious, autoimmune, or chemical processes. Primary peritonitis is due to infection of the peritoneal cavity via hematogenous or lymphatic spread and without intra-abdominal source. Secondary peritonitis arises from the abdominal cavity itself through rupture or abscess of intra-abdominal organs. Penetrating Abdominal Injury
  • Advanced age
  • Coagulopathy
  • Chronic kidney disease Chronic Kidney Disease Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is kidney impairment that lasts for ≥ 3 months, implying that it is irreversible. Hypertension and diabetes are the most common causes; however, there are a multitude of other etiologies. In the early to moderate stages, CKD is usually asymptomatic and is primarily diagnosed by laboratory abnormalities. Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Stoma creation during surgery

Differential Diagnosis

  • Acute megacolon Megacolon Megacolon is a severe, abnormal dilatation of the colon, and is classified as acute or chronic. There are many etiologies of megacolon, including neuropathic and dysmotility conditions, severe infections, ischemia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Megacolon/ colonic pseudo-obstruction Colonic pseudo-obstruction Functional obstruction of the colon leading to megacolon in the absence of obvious colonic diseases or mechanical obstruction. When this condition is acquired, acute, and coexisting with another medical condition (trauma, surgery, serious injuries or illness, or medication), it is called ogilvie’s syndrome. Imaging of the Intestines: massive dilation of the entire colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy secondary to a functional problem rather than a mechanical obstruction Mechanical Obstruction Any impairment, arrest, or reversal of the normal flow of intestinal contents toward the anal canal. Imaging of the Intestines; usually diagnosed by a combination of clinical history and imaging. Treatment is typically medical management with surgery reserved for advanced cases associated with ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage and sepsis Sepsis Systemic inflammatory response syndrome with a proven or suspected infectious etiology. When sepsis is associated with organ dysfunction distant from the site of infection, it is called severe sepsis. When sepsis is accompanied by hypotension despite adequate fluid infusion, it is called septic shock. Sepsis and Septic Shock.
  • Toxic megacolon Toxic megacolon An acute form of megacolon, severe pathological dilatation of the colon. It is associated with clinical conditions such as ulcerative colitis; Crohn disease; amebic dysentery; or Clostridium enterocolitis. Megacolon: a complication of infectious or inflammatory colitis Colitis Inflammation of the colon section of the large intestine, usually with symptoms such as diarrhea (often with blood and mucus), abdominal pain, and fever. Pseudomembranous Colitis. Presentation includes tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children, hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension, and massive abdominal distention Abdominal distention Megacolon. Diagnosis is based on several symptoms such as a history of bloody diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea, fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever/infection, and CT findings characteristic of toxic megacolon Toxic megacolon An acute form of megacolon, severe pathological dilatation of the colon. It is associated with clinical conditions such as ulcerative colitis; Crohn disease; amebic dysentery; or Clostridium enterocolitis. Megacolon. Management depends on the underlying cause with surgery reserved for failure of medical management.
  • Mechanical large bowel obstruction Large Bowel Obstruction Large bowel obstruction is an interruption in the normal flow of intestinal contents through the colon and rectum. This obstruction may be mechanical (due to the actual physical occlusion of the lumen) or functional (due to a loss of normal peristalsis, also known as pseudo-obstruction). Malignancy and volvulus are the most common causes of mechanical large bowel obstruction. Large Bowel Obstruction ( LBO LBO Large bowel obstruction is an interruption in the normal flow of intestinal contents through the colon and rectum. This obstruction may be mechanical (due to the actual physical occlusion of the lumen) or functional (due to a loss of normal peristalsis, also known as pseudo-obstruction). Malignancy and volvulus are the most common causes of mechanical large bowel obstruction. Large Bowel Obstruction): interruption of the flow Flow Blood flows through the heart, arteries, capillaries, and veins in a closed, continuous circuit. Flow is the movement of volume per unit of time. Flow is affected by the pressure gradient and the resistance fluid encounters between 2 points. Vascular resistance is the opposition to flow, which is caused primarily by blood friction against vessel walls. Vascular Resistance, Flow, and Mean Arterial Pressure of contents through the colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy. Presentation is similar to the clinical picture and X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests findings (dilation of the colon Colon The large intestines constitute the last portion of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the cecum, appendix, colon (with ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid segments), rectum, and anal canal. The primary function of the colon is to remove water and compact the stool prior to expulsion from the body via the rectum and anal canal. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy) of sigmoid volvulus. Definitive diagnosis is established with a CT scan and sometimes colonoscopy Colonoscopy Endoscopic examination, therapy or surgery of the luminal surface of the colon. Colorectal Cancer Screening. Management usually involves surgical resection to address the cause of the obstruction.
  • Mechanical small bowel obstruction Small Bowel Obstruction Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is an interruption of the flow of the intraluminal contents through the small intestine, and is classified as mechanical (due to physical blockage) or functional (due to disruption of normal motility). The most common cause of SBO in the Western countries is post-surgical adhesions. Small bowel obstruction typically presents with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distention, constipation, and/or obstipation. Small Bowel Obstruction ( SBO SBO Small bowel obstruction (SBO) is an interruption of the flow of the intraluminal contents through the small intestine, and is classified as mechanical (due to physical blockage) or functional (due to disruption of normal motility). The most common cause of SBO in the Western countries is post-surgical adhesions. Small bowel obstruction typically presents with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distention, constipation, and/or obstipation. Small Bowel Obstruction): interruption of the flow Flow Blood flows through the heart, arteries, capillaries, and veins in a closed, continuous circuit. Flow is the movement of volume per unit of time. Flow is affected by the pressure gradient and the resistance fluid encounters between 2 points. Vascular resistance is the opposition to flow, which is caused primarily by blood friction against vessel walls. Vascular Resistance, Flow, and Mean Arterial Pressure of contents through the small bowel Small bowel The small intestine is the longest part of the GI tract, extending from the pyloric orifice of the stomach to the ileocecal junction. The small intestine is the major organ responsible for chemical digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is divided into 3 segments: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. Small Intestine: Anatomy. Presentation similar to the clinical picture and some X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests findings (small bowel dilation Bowel dilation Large Bowel Obstruction) of cecal volvulus. A definitive diagnosis is established with a CT scan. Nonoperative management is frequently successful. Surgery is reserved for severe clinical presentation and failure of medical management.

References

  1. Halabi W.J., Jafari M.D., Kang C.Y., Nguyen V.Q., Carmichael J.C., Mills S., et al. (2014). Colonic volvulus in the United States: trends, outcomes, and predictors of mortality. Ann Surg.
  2. Hodin R.A. (2020). Cecal Volvulus. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cecal-volvulus
  3. Hodin R.A. (2020). Sigmoid Volvulus. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/sigmoid-volvulus
  4. Thornton S.C. (2020). Sigmoid and Cecal Volvulus. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2048554-overview
  5. Williams N., Bulstrode Ch. (2013). Bailey and Love’s Short Practice of Surgery 26th ed. (pg 1181–1198).

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