A colon stricture is a narrowing of part of the colon. The reduction in the diameter of the colon can lead to an impaction, where fecal material builds up behind the stricture because it cannot pass through. Some patients with colon strictures may be unaware of the condition, while others can develop symptoms like constipation and abdominal pain. A gastroenterologist usually supervises diagnosis and treatment of strictures in the bowel and the patient may need to spend some time in the hospital during treatment, depending on the nature of the stricture.
A number of conditions can cause the walls of the colon to narrow. Chronic diseases like ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, and inflammatory bowel disease have all been linked with strictures caused by chronic inflammation and scarring. Bowel obstructions can cause strictures, as can tumors, adhesions in the abdomen, and volvulus, where the colon loops around itself. Hernias are another cause of colon strictures.
The area of the bowel past a colon stricture may collapse if no material is moving through the narrowed area, because there is nothing to keep the colon open. In front of the stricture, the bowel can widen as a result of a buildup of material and there is a risk of rupture. If the colon ruptures, the patient is at risk of developing a severe infection of the abdomen known as peritonitis. This condition is fatal if not treated and is considered a medical emergency.
In a patient suspected of having a colon stricture, a medical imaging study can sometimes be used to identify a problem with the bowel. Colonoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the colon and used to visualize the tissue, is commonly recommended to learn more. Treatments can include removal of impacted material, surgery to correct problems with the colon, and treatment of underlying bowel disease, like adjusting diet and medication regimens to prevent inflammation of the bowel.
A severe colon stricture may lead to necrosis, where some of the tissue dies. The dead tissue will need to be removed and the patient will receive an anastomosis, where the sections of healthy bowel are joined together. Loss of too much of the bowel can result in complications. Patients should seek medical attention for prolonged abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and related symptoms so that if they are caused by damage to the bowel, the damage can be addressed promptly to reduce the risk of complications.