How Does Volvulus Occur, and How Is It Fixed?

Posted on 2023/06/14 by Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York

The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains volvulus as a digestive condition that can cause severe pain. This is a medical emergency. If symptoms occur, it is ideal to seek emergency medical attention. Knowing how volvulus occurs and how doctors fix it can help you prevent it or prepare you for treatment. Here are the details.


How a Volvulus Occurs

This condition happens when an intestinal loop twists around itself and its supplying mesentery. The twisting obstructs the bowel. This results in vomiting, bloody stools, and pain. These symptoms may occur suddenly. They may also occur without you knowing. 

Your mesentery twists and cuts the blood supply to your intestines, resulting in bowel ischemia. Fever may develop, and pain may be severe. The following are the risk factors for this disease:

  • High fiber diet

  • Pregnancy

  • Enema

  • High fiber diet

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Parkinson’s disease


The Symptoms

Volvulus can develop right away with severe symptoms. People who suffer from it often head to the emergency room for immediate assessment and relief. Abdominal tenderness, pain, and distension are common symptoms. They usually happen with shock, nausea, and constipation. 

Infants with volvulus tend to experience rapid breathing, lethargy, and sudden crying episodes. In some cases, there could be periods with volvulus symptoms periods when the infant is symptom-free. Other infants may develop intermittent volvulus. This is when the child has periodic symptoms that can disappear without treatment.


The Diagnosis

Your doctor can provide an immediate diagnosis for proper treatment. There will be a complete physical examination and an assessment of your medical history. More tests will follow for a proper treatment plan. Here are some of them:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy

  • Blood tests

  • Computed tomography for the abdomen

  • Stool exam for blood

  • Barium X-rays for lower or upper abdominal tract


The Treatment

You will need immediate treatment in the form of surgery. The doctor will make a small cut in the abdominal area near where the intestinal twisting occurred. Untwisting the intestine will follow. This will help bring back blood flow in the area. 

The doctor may use barium enema or sigmoidoscopy as a primary treatment for sigmoid volvulus. But you may need to have a bowel resection with anastomosis within a couple of days. This will prevent a recurrence. For a cecal volvulus, the doctor may stitch back the healthy areas together. 

If the intestine’s blood supply has been cut for a while, it is likely that the section has died. The doctor may cut out a piece of the affected intestine. There are cases when reattaching the ends of the intestine is not possible. The doctor will need to connect the two ends of your intestine to your stomas (openings in your abdominal wall). This means that you will need to use a permanent or temporary colostomy bag for disposing of waste. 



A severe blood infection may develop as a complication of volvulus. Short bowel syndrome and infection of the abdomen are complications as well. Immediate treatment can prevent the condition from being life-threatening. 

Understanding volvulus can help prevent life-threatening complications. At Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York, we help our patients maintain their health and safety. You can visit our center in New York, New York, for an in-person consultation. Please call 212-879-6677 to set an appointment or ask about our volvulus treatment packages.

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