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Volvulus

Volvulus is a serious condition caused by a twisting of the bowels. It occurs when the bowels lack normal attachments inside the abdomen allowing them to twist and rotate. The condition obstructs the flow of the bowel and the intestine can infarct. It is essential to seek immediate treatment for volvulus  to maximize outcomes and prevent serious complications. In most cases, people who receive prompt treatment for volvulus do not experience long-term complications.

Did you know…

that most cases of volvulus are caused by a birth defect known as malrotation? Some people with intestinal volvulus never experience symptoms and are never diagnosed during their lifetimes. Others develop symptoms later in life and are eventually diagnosed in adolescence or adulthood. The majority of people with this congenital abnormality, however experience symptoms within the first year of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of volvulus?

A person with volvulus will have symptoms that mimic those of a bowel obstruction. The symptoms can appear suddenly and include abdominal pain, vomiting bile, bloody stools, severe constipation or a distended abdomen. Rapid heart rate and rapid breathing are also common with this condition. Less commonly, the symptoms of volvulus may come and go in intermittent episodes, seeming to resolve on its own. This situation occurs as a result of the bowel twisting and untwisting on its own.

How does a colorectal surgeon diagnose volvulus?

We have many diagnostic tools by which we can diagnose volvulus in a patient. Specifically, these include x-ray imaging such as a CT scan of the GI tract, which can reveal a twisted bowel. Other tests include blood tests and stool sampling, as well as a barium enema to diagnose malrotation of the bowel.

What happens during volvulus surgery?

In most cases, volvulus is an emergency condition that requires immediate surgery. During the procedure, which may be performed with minimally invasive techniques, the bowel is untwisted and any dead tissue or inadequately attached segments of the bowel are removed.