A 22-year-old Chinese man didn’t have an easy life. He suffered constipation since being born, with laxatives offering only minor relief.
Recently, doctors in Shanghai worked to remove 30 inches of his massively swollen colon, getting rid of almost 30 pounds of feces he accumulated over his lifetime.
The man, who remains unidentified, looked like he was nine months pregnant, according to Dr. Yin Lu from Tenth People’s Hospital of Shanghai.
“It looked like it could explode at any time,” he said.
But the three-hour operation was worth it: surgeons successfully took out the affected section of the patient’s colon, along with its huge poop accumulation.
The man was also seen to be very weak when he was admitted to the facility, barely talking and with abdomen so swollen that the skin stretched until shiny. His subcutaneous veins too were already badly inflamed.
For most people, consuming more fiber does the trick to get “unclogged.” But his case was different: he sought relief from laxatives all his life but to no avail. Laxatives are believed to only work if one’s intestines are working properly.
Furthermore, his parents did not believe it was a serious condition, so the patient never received the necessary medical help early on.
A Look At Hirschsprung’s Disease
The man suffered from Hirschsprung’s disease, a congenital condition characterized by poor bowel movements due to portions of the bowel missing a number of nerve cells.
In a normal person’s digestive tract, food and waste usually move through the intestines via a process called peristalsis, or the involuntary waves of muscle contractions pushing matter through. For Hirschsprung’s disease patients, peristalsis stops at the part of the bowel that lacks nerve cells.
Since there are no nerve cells signaling muscle movement, feces may end up sitting at the exact site and result in constipation. This, in turn, may lead to megacolon and a form of infection called enterocolitis.
“The stool essentially gets collected until a patient can’t hold it anymore,” explained Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in a Health.com report.
And it’s more than just bloating. Extreme constipation, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, and a range of infections can occur, where the blockage could lead to upchuck upstream, Ganjhu added.
Hirschsprung’s disease is rare but still affects around one in every 5,000 individuals. It takes place four times more commonly in males than in females and is typically spotted in people with chromosomal defects such as Down syndrome.
The condition is diagnosed using a combination of diagnostics including X-rays, enemas, and rectal biopsy. Once confirmed, doctors perform a colectomy to get rid of the whole colon or remove just the affected segment of it.
Reattaching healthy tissue to one’s anal sphincter offers more regular bowel movements to the person, Ganjhu said, with a staggering 95 percent of patients opting for treatment eventually ending up with normal digestion and minimal constipation.
Early this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an oral treatment for chronic idiopathic constipation. The one-a-day tablet works in one’s upper GI tract to stimulate intestinal fluid secretion.