What is toxic megacolon in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020
  • Author: William A Rowe, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Toxic megacolon is a life-threatening complication of ulcerative colitis and requires urgent surgical intervention. This condition occurs predominantly in the transverse colon, probably because air collects there in the supine position. The transverse colon is dilated, usually more than 8 cm (dilation more than 6 cm is considered abnormal). A colectomy is required if no improvement occurs within 24-48 hours. Repeat radiographs are required at 12- to 24-hour intervals to monitor the course of dilatation and to assess the need for emergency colectomy.

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