Tortuous Colon

A Tortuous Colon Is Seldom As Bad As It Sounds


When you first hear the term “tortuous colon”, don’t be led to believe that it’s a colon that happens to be a source of a great deal of pain and discomfort. Think instead of the phrase “following a tortuous path”, which describes a journey that is full of twists and turns as one proceeds from one destination to another. So it is with the tortuous colon.


A tortuous colon, more often referred to by medical practitioners as a redundant colon, is a colon that is longer than normal, and therefore may require extra loops, or a number of twists and turns, to enable it to fit into its allocated space. Since the typical colon, which is about 5 feet long, has several twists and turns to begin with, it would seem that a colon that has an extra loop or two would not be big deal, and in most cases it is not a big deal. Situations do arise however, where an extra loop or a twist can be a source of problems.


The Purpose Of A Colonoscopy


The digestive tract follows a path that goes from the esophagus down to the stomach, then into the small intestine, and finally into the large intestine, which we also call the colon. The colon in turn empties its contents into the rectum. There is a pouch where the small intestine and the large intestine are joined. This pouch is called the cecum. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to examine a portion of the digestive tract, that portion being the colon. The inner wall or lining of the colon is examined by means of a long, snake-like instrument called a colonoscope, which has a video camera affixed at its end. The colon is examined for the purpose of locating any tumors, precancerous cysts, or diverticula that may be present. A colonoscopy may also be called for if there is an obstruction somewhere in the colon, or if there is abnormal bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract.


The Goal Is To Reach The Cecum


Whatever the reason, the endoscopist, the person performing the colonoscopy, generally wants to be able to view the internal condition of the colon from one end to the other, from its junction with the rectum to the cecum. If a colon has too many twists or turns, or if a twist or turn makes passage of an endoscope difficult or impractical, the cecum may not be reached, and the results of the colonoscopy would be incomplete.


A blockage of some kind could also prevent the satisfactory completion of a colonoscopy, although if the blockage is at the root of the problem being experienced by the patient, the colonoscopy would be successful. At other times, a colonoscopy might be incomplete, or simply very difficult to complete, because of a tortuous colon. Obviously, the colonoscope cannot be forced through the colon’s passageway, as the risk of injury would be too great. The presence of extra loops or turns in one’s colon not only make an endoscopist’s work much more difficult, but there are times when an endoscopist may actually loose control of the instrument, resulting in possible discomfort to the patient, or possible damage to the inner lining of the colon.


Performing A Colonoscopy On A Tortuous Or Redundant Colon Takes Talent


The act of inserting a colonoscope into the colon might seem to be quite straightforward, and in the initial stages it usually is. Once a colon’s twists and loops are encountered however, it can require all of the dexterity an endoscopist can muster to successfully navigate the instrument all of the way through the colon to the cecum. A woman’s colon is much more apt to be tortuous than is a man’s, since a woman’s colon is longer, and there is a portion of it which, instead of running in a nearly horizontal direction, tends to dip downward toward the pelvis.


One can either be born with a tortuous or redundant colon, or acquire one over the course of many years by following poor dietary habits. Frequent bouts of constipation, and the straining that can result from attempting bowel movements, can literally lengthen the colon, making its path a more tortuous one in the process.


A person having a tortuous colon may never suffer any ill effects, or ever have any noticeable symptoms. If the colon does begin to cause problems, the symptoms may be quite similar to those of IBS, irritable bowel syndrome. In severe cases, surgery may be required to reconfigure the colon. In most cases, a change in diet is all that will be needed. A diet featuring plenty of fiber, and plenty of liquid, will help bowels process their contents more efficiently and effectively.


It should be noted that a tortuous or redundant colon is not a disease. It is an anatomical abnormality or disorder. It is not caused by any disease, it is not symptomatic of any disease, and it will not predispose someone to a cancerous condition in the colon as some people fear. It is what it is.