Newswise — Colonic volvulus, or twisting of the large intestine, is a potentially life-threatening cause of large-bowel obstruction. An updated set of evidence-based recommendations for management of colonic volvulus – as well as for a rare condition called acute colonic pseudo-obstruction (ACPO), which can mimic the symptoms of large bowel obstruction – will appear in the September 2021 issue Diseases of the Colon & Rectum (DC&R), the official journal of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS). 

The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

Developed by the ASCRS Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee, the updated recommendations are now available in advance on the DC&R website and will appear in the journal's September issue. "These guidelines reflect the best-available evidence on current practice for specialist management of colonic volvulus and ACPO," comments Daniel L. Feingold, MD, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., on behalf of the Committee.

Updated recommendations for colonic volvulus and ACPO

Colonic volvulus occurs when part of the colon becomes twisted, causing obstruction and reduced blood flow, with the potential for intestinal damage and death. Although colonic volvulus is relatively uncommon in the United States, colonic obstruction of any cause is a medical emergency requiring immediate evaluation and treatment. Acute colonic pseudo-obstruction is a rare condition that may cause symptoms of large-bowel obstruction without mechanical blockage, requiring different treatment.

The updated 2021 guidelines consist of 15 recommendations related to the diagnosis and treatment of colonic volvulus, based on 125 research reports. The new document reflects the latest research evidence since publication of the previous guidelines in 2016. Recommendations for colonic volvulus address:

  • Initial evaluation. When first evaluated, about one-fourth to one-third of patients have symptoms of infection or shock related to loss of intestinal blood flow (ischemia) or perforation.
  • Imaging studies. Radiographs or CT scans can detect the presence and location of colonic volvulus. Early detection may enable treatment before irreversible intestinal injury develops.
  • Sigmoid volvulus. Management depends on where the volvulus is located. For volvulus in the sigmoid colon (near the end of the large bowel), colonoscopy can be performed to assess and sometimes relieve the obstruction (detorsion/decompression). If the bowel cannot be untwisted, or if intestinal damage or perforation is present, urgent surgery is needed. After successful detorsion, surgery may be recommended to prevent the problem from recurring.
  • Cecal volvulus. If volvulus is located in the cecum (at the beginning of the large bowel), surgical treatment is recommended. The risks for intestinal damage or tissue death are higher in patients with cecal volvulus, although more recent studies suggest that outcomes have improved.

The remaining recommendations address management of ACPO: a less-common condition with symptoms similar to those of large-bowel obstruction, despite the absence of mechanical blockage. The guidelines focus on diagnostic steps to exclude the presence of colonic volvulus, cancer, or other causes of obstruction. Treatment starts with supportive care to eliminate or correct other medical conditions that can predispose to ACPO.

Although most of the guideline recommendations are graded as "strong," many are based on "low-quality" evidence – highlighting remaining gaps in the available research on colonic volvulus and ACPO. Dr. Feingold adds, "We hope these recommendations will provide the basis for a scientifically informed approach to management of these serious conditions, always informed by the physician's judgment and tailored to the individual patient's situation."


About ​​Diseases of the Colon & Rectum Diseases of the Colon & Rectum is the world's leading publication in colorectal surgery, ranking in the top 13% of all peer-reviewed surgery journals. DC&R is the recognized authority on conditions affecting the colon, rectum, and anus, publishing original articles, reviews, and short communications. For more than 50 years, DC&R has been the journal of choice among colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists for the transfer of both medical and surgical knowledge and information in this highly specialized field. For more information about our publication, follow us on Twitter @DCRjournal.

About the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) is the premier society for colon and rectal surgeons and other healthcare providers dedicated to advancing and promoting the science and practice of the treatment of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the colon, rectum and anus. More than 1,000 of the Society's 3,500 members are certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. We believe in patient-centered, high-quality, high-value health care. We achieve this care through professionalism, unique knowledge and skills, and the fellowship of the Society's members.

About Wolters Kluwer Wolters Kluwer (WKL) is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the clinicians, nurses, accountants, lawyers, and tax, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and regulatory sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with advanced technology and services. 

Wolters Kluwer reported 2020 annual revenues of €4.6 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,200 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.

Wolters Kluwer provides trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students in effective decision-making and outcomes across healthcare. We support clinical effectiveness, learning and research, clinical surveillance and compliance, as well as data solutions. For more information about our solutions, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.


Journal Link: Dis Colon Rectum 2021;64:1046-1057