Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

A volvulus occurs when part of the large intestine is twisted on itself and the mesentery. The mesentery is a supportive tissue that anchors the intestines to the back wall of the abdomen. The twisted intestine creates a bowel obstruction that cuts off the blood supply and affects bowel function.

A volvulus requires immediate medical attention.

Causes

It is not known what causes the twisting to happen. Rarely, this may lead to bowel obstruction.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your child’s chance of volvulus include:

  • Congenital defects including:
    • Elongated or enlarged colon
    • Congenital intestinal malrotation
    • Sigmoid colon unattached to abdominal wall
    • Narrow mesenteric connection to the colon
  • Irregular bowel habits
  • Chronic constipation
  • High fiber diet
  • Previous volvulus
  • Hirschsprung disease

Symptoms

In some cases, your child may not have symptoms. In those that have them, symptoms may include:

Diagnosis

Your child’s doctor will ask you about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child’s doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests for electrolytes
  • Hematest to check for hidden blood in the stool

Imaging tests will be needed to see your child’s internal structures. Tests include:

Treatment

The treatment goal is to unblock the obstruction and restore bowel function. Treatment may include:

Hydration

IV fluids may be given to prevent dehydration and shock. Your child may need a nasogastric tube to help prevent the build-up of gas in the stomach. A nasogastric tube is a tube inserted through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.

Medications

Your child’s doctor may recommend antibiotics if an infection is present or possible. It is important for your child to take all of the antibiotics as recommended, even when feeling well.

Surgery

Your child’s doctor will untwist the intestine and assess for any damage. In most cases, untwisting the intestine helps restore blood flow and bowel function.

If needed, the section of intestine that is damaged is removed. The two remaining healthy ends are put together with stitches or staples. This procedure may reduce the chance of another volvulus.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent volvulus.