While the poop emoji may be one of our favorite responses to texts with friends, an incident in the U.K. has us re-thinking all of our #2 jokes. A 24-year-old man almost died from constipation, and it’s so not funny.
According to an article published this week in BMJ Case Reports, the man had a history of chronic constipation, and sought help at a clinic when he began experiencing abdominal pain and diarrhea that persisted for a week. After initial scans revealed the last part of his large intestine was filled with feces, he was given oral laxatives for relief and sent on his way. Two days later, he returned with even worse pain, and upon examination, his doctors found that the constipation had turned into a full-blown medical emergency—his organs were actually shutting down from being overly “backed up.” Yikes.
A CT scan showed that the patient was suffering from rare conditions called megacolon and megarectum, or severe dilation of the colon. And if that wasn’t dangerous enough, the back-up caused his colon to tear open: Further examination showed that his kidneys were beginning to fail and that there was increased acid in his blood. The man was immediately rushed into the operating room, where the surgeons were able to repair the rupture and relieve him of the fecal build-up.
“Patients with this condition report recurrent episodes of constipation, abdominal pain, distension, and bloating starting in childhood or adolescence,” according to the author of the case report. Although rare, it’s a serious condition that can be life-threatening.
Luckily, most cases of constipation can be relieved without a trip to the ER. “For most patients with chronic megacolon and constipation, a non-surgical approach can be effective,” the author writes. Non-surgical treatments may include enemas and oral laxatives. If these methods are successful, patients can be discharged with dietary advice and a regular colon-cleansing routine.
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