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Colonic Inertia

What is Colonic Inertia?


Colonic inertia (CI) is also known as a slow transit constipation. When a person has this kind of condition, he or she has a problem or disturbance of colonic motility, causing further disability.

People with CI have ineffective colonic propulsion, especially with contractile activity. It occurs more often in women than in men. Other experts define it as a condition in which the colonic nerves or muscles malfunction.

It is called colonic inertia because fecal matter is prevented from passing through the colon. It most often results in the obstruction of the bowel. Others define it as a functional problem of the colon in which the colon holds on to the waste or fecal material for an extended period of time.

Colonic Inertia Symptoms

People who experience CI usually report the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal bloating or distention
  • Defecation difficulties or irregular bowel movements
  • Hemorrhage
  • Diarrhea
  • Delayed gastric emptying
  • Constipation

Colonic Inertia Causes

The causes of CI are still not yet determined. However, there are hypotheses which may point to certain reasons for the occurrence of CI in certain individuals. Such causes may be the following:

  • Congenital problems – Studies have shown that children who suffer from recurrent problems of this kind of condition are the ones who suffer the most compared to those who don’t.
  • Infectious agents – Infectious agents which may be due to the degradation of the enteric nervous system may disrupt the normal balance of  intestinal flora.
  • Long-term usage of laxative – Some physicians believe that prolonged and continuous use of laxatives may lead to the neurological effect of the gut structure and worsen the condition.

Other theories include:

  • The process of aging
  • Family history and inheritance patterns

Other factors that lead to this condition may be as follows:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Colon cancer
  • Insufficient fiber and water intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Medications like antidepressants and pain drugs
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease

Colonic Inertia Treatment

The treatments for people with CI include the following:

Diet modification – People with CI should consume foods that are high in fiber to aid propulsion of  fecal material. Fruits and vegetable will be beneficial, and an increase in water consumption may also be ideal.

Pharmacological medication – Osmotic laxatives are also prescribed to people with CI problems. Since they work through fluid exchange, they function well as they draw water from the colon into the stools.

Biofeedback mechanism – This kind of treatment is done to relax the patient’s pelvic muscles. It is often used with people who have dyssynergia (pelvic floor dysfunction).

Colonic Inertia Surgery

Surgery will only beneficial if the person is not relieved from the condition even when the diet has been modified and pharmacological medications have been given.

Depending on the assessment, the physician may perform ileostomy, colectomy, or antegrade enema. There are pros and cons whenever surgical treatment is involved, but it is best to discuss in detail with the doctor before undergoing such treatment procedure.

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