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Toxic megacolon

  • Definition

    Toxic megacolon is a life-threatening complication of other intestinal conditions that causes rapid widening (dilation) of the large intestine within 1 to a few days.


    Alternative Names

    Toxic dilation of the colon; Megarectum


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Toxic megacolon occurs as a complication of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and infections of the colon. The term "toxic" means that this complication occurs with infection or inflammation.

    This is not the same as other forms of megacolon, such as pseudo-obstruction, acute colonic ileus, or congenital colonic dilation. These conditions occur without infection or inflammation.