Just how bad can a person’s constipation get? A 24-year-old man gets surgery after his colon burst from being so full of feces.

Constipation, Stomach Pains, Diarrhea

An article published in BMJ Case Reports tells of the case of a 24-year-old man from London who experienced a life-threatening condition after his colon burst from having too much feces. The man came to London’s Newham University Hospital after a week of stomach pains and diarrhea, but when doctors performed a CT scan, they found that he actually had a condition called megacolon or megarectum, meaning that his bowel is perforated and overly full of feces. They also found that his abdomen was rather tender with quiet “bowel sounds” and that his rectum had dilated to up to 18 cm.

The man refused enemas so doctors gave him laxatives to treat the condition. However, the man came back to the hospital merely two days later with worse pain. Doctors noted that he had stomach inflammation and a reduced level of consciousness, and testing revealed that his kidneys were beginning to fail and that he was already acidotic.

Hartmann’s Procedure For Bowel Problems

Doctors immediately sent the man to the intensive care unit before performing the Hartmann's procedure on him. Hartmann’s procedure is a type of surgery that is often used for various bowel problems. It involves removing the affected part of the bowel and creating an alternate path for the feces to pass. In many cases, having the procedure is the best chance of a cure or improvement to bowel problems.

In the case of the patient, he has a history of chronic constipation, and he has autism spectrum disorder. According to past studies, chronic constipation and other gastrointestinal problems are actually more common in people with the disorder. In fact, they were found to be more common in constipation clinics than other members of the population.


A megacolon is a rare condition in which the large intestine or colon is enlarged and dilated without mechanical obstruction. Acquired megacolon in children may be a result of faulty toilet training or other emotional disturbances that would make a child refuse to defecate, leading to the build-up of feces over time. In adults, this can be caused by taking certain medications or by conditions like abnormal thyroid function and diabetes. In the case of the 24-year-old, the cause is unknown.

Although the condition is considered rare, it is a painful condition that may raise the risk of bowel perforation and the development of ulcers in the bowel wall.

In many cases, people with the condition may need only to take laxatives or get an enema.

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