Colon splenic flexure distention

Alternative names
Distention of the colon’s splenic flexure

Definition
Distention of the colon’s splenic flexure is an enlargement of the splenic flexure beyond what is normal.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Distention is usually caused by infection (tuberculosis, amebiasis), inflammation (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), twisting of the colon (torsion, volvulus) or obstruction (cancer). If the colon does not contract properly, the splenic flexure can become distended.

Symptoms

Symptoms of fever, rapid heart rate, abdominal pain and tenderness, and a palpable mass are caused when the splenic flexure becomes ballooned.

Signs and tests

Splenic flexure distention may be identified by the following studies:

     
  • Abdominal x-ray  
  • Barium enema  
  • Abdominal CT scan  
  • Abdominal MRI

Treatment

Treatment involves decompressing the colon and treating the underlying cause of distention. This may be done with a rectal tube for decompression, or a colonoscopy to remove excess air in the colon. Occasionally, surgery may be performed to remove an obstruction or to prevent perforation.

Expectations (prognosis)

Prognosis is generally good if an underlying cause of distention can be identified and treated.

Complications

Complications are primarily perforation (hole in the colon) and infection.

Calling your health care provider

If symptoms of abdominal pain, abdominal distention, or fever occur, call your provider.

Prevention

There are no methods of preventing splenic flexure distention.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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