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Toxic Megacolon Treatment: Here's What You Need to Know

Toxic Megacolon Treatment: Here's What You Need to Know

A toxic megacolon is a general term used to describe an abnormality that causes the colon to dilate. Having a toxic megacolon is dangerous and potentially fatal. What are the symptoms of toxic megacolon, and what is toxic megacolon treatment? Learn more here.

The colon is part of the large intestine, along with your appendix and rectum. The large intestine is a tube-like organ which serves as a pathway for waste into the anus after absorbing water.

Toxic megacolon treatment: What is a toxic megacolon?

Toxic megacolon is rare. It can develop over the course of a few days. Its leading cause is inflammatory bowel disease, also known as an IBD. IBD is a condition that causes a part of your digestive tract to get irritated and may even induce swelling. These diseases are usually painful and can permanently damage both your small and large intestines.

Toxic megacolon may be a complication of the following conditions:

  • Ulcerative colitis. This is an inflammatory bowel disease which affects the colon and the rectum
  • Crohn’s disease. A type of IBD
  • Colon infections. Usually caused by C difficile, a germ that can cause various symptoms that ranges from diarrhea to a possible deadly colon inflammation.
  • Colon cancer
  • Ischemia. A condition that reduces the blood flowing into the colon
  • Diabetes
  • Organ transplants
  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Suppressed immunity

Toxic megacolon happens when IBDs cause the enlargement of the colon. When the colon dilates, the colon experiences difficulty in removing body waste. If left untreated, the body waste that is built up in your body may eventually cause the large intestine to rupture. The rupturing of the colon is a life-threatening scenario. When your intestines bleed, it may cause the bacteria in your intestines to spread inside of your abdomen.

While toxic megacolon is usually caused by inflammation or infection, other types of megacolons that are not caused by inflammation or infection also exist.

Toxic megacolon treatment: Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of a toxic megacolon include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Shock
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Painful bowel movement

When you experience these symptoms, it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately because toxic megacolon is a life-threatening condition.

Toxic megacolon treatment: Diagnosis

If you experience the symptoms of a toxic megacolon, a doctor may diagnose you through various tests. The doctor will:

  • Check if your abdomen is very tender
  • If they can hear abnormalities within your bowels

It is possible that your physician will recommend more tests in order to confirm your diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • CT scan
  • X-ray

Toxic megacolon treatment

If your doctor has confirmed that you have a toxic megacolon, toxic megacolon treatment usually involves surgery.

After hospitalization, fluids will be given to you so you do not undergo shock. Shock is a condition that happens when the insides of your body become infected. When this happens, your blood pressure decreases dramatically in a short amount of time, becoming a life-threatening condition.

Once the fluids stabilize your blood pressure, you will undergo surgery that serves as your toxic megacolon treatment. Surgeons will treat any tears in the colon. This is so that the bacteria that are present inside the colon does not spread to the rest of your system.

Should your surgeon find that your colon does not have a tear, tissues that are present in the colon can still be damaged and may need removal. In some cases, depending on the damage to your colon, you may even require a colectomy, or removal of your colon.

You will be given antibiotics for the procedure, in order to prevent sepsis, which is a serious infection that causes a life threatening reaction in your body.

Key takeaway

Untreated IBD may cause toxic megacolon. It is important for you to consult with your physician, as having a toxic megacolon is potentially life-threatening.

To help you mitigate the symptoms of IBD, you may need to include changes to your lifestyle, as well as maintenance medications. This helps you void infections, and minimizes the chances that you will develop a toxic megacolon.

Learn more about Inflammatory Bowel Disease here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Toxic megacolon, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/toxic-megacolon

Accessed June 17, 2021

Toxic megacolon, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547679/

Accessed June 17, 2021

Toxic megacolon, https://radiopaedia.org/articles/toxic-megacolon

Accessed June 17, 2021

Toxic Megacolon, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/toxic-megacolon

Accessed June 17, 2021

Toxic megacolon, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000248.htm

Accessed June 17, 2021


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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Jul 31, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel