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Cecal volvulus is a serious medical issue involving the intestines where the cecum, the first portion of the large intestine, loops around itself and creates an obstruction. This condition can be very dangerous, and is treated with surgery to correct the twisting of the intestine and position the cecum so it cannot loop around itself again. A general surgeon may provide treatment, or the patient can see a gastroenterology specialist for the surgery.
This condition occurs when the cecum drifts out of position, instead of remaining anchored to the abdominal wall, and then wraps around itself. The obstructed cecum makes it impossible for material to drain from the small intestine into the large intestine. Over time, the tissue can die because the twisting cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, and the patient can be at risk of a bowel rupture if the obstruction is left untreated, allowing the contents of the bowel to spill into the abdominal cavity.
Patients with cecal volvulus can experience symptoms like swelling of the abdomen, nausea, and cramping. A medical imaging study will show that a bowel obstruction is present and provide some information about its nature. A colonoscopy may be recommended to collect more information about the condition, and to correct it, in some cases. In other patients, a procedure where the abdomen is opened to reach the bowel will be needed.
During the surgery, the intestine will be gently untwisted and checked for signs of dead tissue and other complications. Once the surgeon is satisfied about the patient's bowel health, the bowel can be repositioned and the patient can be closed back up. Potential complications of cecal volvulus surgery include intestinal perforation and infection, both of which will be significantly less likely if the patient works with an experienced surgeon and receives surgery in a reputable facility.
Older adults tend to be most at risk for cecal volvulus. Some older adults experience irregular bowel function and symptoms like abdominal pain and tenderness on a regular basis, and may not identify the early warning signs of cecal volvulus. Generally, any interruption in normal bowel function is a cause for concern, even if other symptoms seem familiar or normal to the patient; if a patient is used to abdominal cramping but usually defecates once a day and then all of a sudden does not, for example, this is a sign that there could be a problem in the intestinal tract.