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Harrison’s Manual of Medicine



Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Diverticular disease
Intestinal Pseudoobstruction
Vascular Disorders (Small and Large Intestine)
Colonic Angiodysplasia
Anorectal Diseases

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Characterized by altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, and absence of detectable organic pathology. Most common GI disease in clinical practice. Three types of clinical presentations: (1) spastic colon (chronic abdominal pain and constipation), (2) alternating constipation and diarrhea, or (3) chronic, painless diarrhea.
PATHOPHYSIOLOGY   Visceral hyperalgesia to mechanoreceptor stimuli is common. Reported abnormalities include altered colonic motility at rest and in response to stress, cholinergic drugs, cholecystokinin; altered small-intestinal motility; enhanced visceral sensation (lower pain threshold in response to gut distention); and abnormal extrinsic innervation of the gut. Patients presenting with IBS to a physician have an increased frequency of psychological disturbances—depression, hysteria, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Specific food intolerances and malabsorption of bile acids by the terminal ileum may account for a few cases.
CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS   Onset often before age 30; females/ males = 2:1. Abdominal pain and irregular bowel habits. Additional symptoms often include abdominal distention, relief of abdominal pain with bowel movement, increased frequency of stools with pain, loose stools with pain, mucus in stools, and sense of incomplete evacuation. Associated findings include pasty stools, ribbony or pencil-thin stools, heartburn, bloating, back pain, weakness, faintness, palpitations, urinary frequency.
DIAGNOSIS   IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. Rome criteria for diagnosis are shown in Table 150-1. Consider sigmoidoscopy and barium radiographs to exclude inflammatory bowel disease or malignancy; consider excluding giardiasis, intestinal lactase deficiency, hyperthyroidism.

Table 150-1 Rome Criteria for the Diagnosis of IBS

Reassurance and supportive physician-patient relationship, avoidance of stress or precipitating factors, dietary bulk (fiber, psyllium extract, e.g., Metamucil 1 tbsp daily or bid); for diarrhea, trials of loperamide (2 PO qA.M. then 1 PO after each loose stool to a maximum of 8/d, then titrate), diphenoxylate (Lomotil) (up to 2 PO qid), or cholestyramine (up to 1 packet mixed in water PO qid); for pain, anticholinergics (e.g., dicyclomine HCl 10–40 mg PO qid) or hyoscyamine as Levsin 1–2 PO q4h prn. Amitryptiline 25–50 mg PO qhs or other antidepressants in low doses may relieve pain. Leuprolide acetate (gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogue), psychotherapy, hypnotherapy of possible benefit in severe refractory cases.

Diverticular disease
Herniations or saclike protrusions of the mucosa through the muscularis at points of nutrient artery penetration; possibly due to increased intraluminal pressure, low-fiber diet; most common in sigmoid colon.
1.   Asymptomatic (detected by barium enema or colonoscopy).
2.   Pain: Recurrent left lower quadrant pain relieved by defecation; alternating constipation and diarrhea. Diagnosis by barium enema.
3.   Diverticulitis: Pain, fever, altered bowel habits, tender colon, leukocytosis. Best confirmed and staged by CT after opacification of bowel. (In pts who recover with medical therapy, perform elective barium enema or colonoscopy in 4–6 weeks to exclude cancer.) Complications: pericolic abscess, perforation, fistula (to bladder, vagina, skin, soft tissue), liver abscess, stricture. Frequently require surgery or, for abscesses, percutaneous drainage.
4.   Hemorrhage: Usually in absence of diverticulitis, often from ascending colon and self-limited. If persistent, manage with mesenteric arteriography and intraarterial infusion of vasopressin, or surgery (Chap. 22).

Pain High-fiber diet, psyllium extract (e.g., Metamucil 1 tbsp PO qd or bid), anticholinergics (e.g., dicyclomine HCl 10–40 mg PO qid).
Diverticulitis NPO, IV fluids, antibiotics (e.g., cefoxitin 2 g IV q6h or imipenem 500 mg IV q6–8h); for ambulatory pts, ampicillin or tetracycline 500 mg PO qid (clear liquid diet); surgical resection in refractory or frequently recurrent cases, young persons (<age 50), immunosuppressed pts, or when there is inability to exclude cancer.

Intestinal Pseudoobstruction
Recurrent attacks of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and distention mimicking mechanical obstruction; may be complicated by steatorrhea due to bacterial overgrowth.
CAUSES   Primary: Familial visceral neuropathy, familial visceral myopathy, idiopathic. Secondary: Scleroderma, amyloidosis, diabetes, celiac disease, parkinsonism, muscular dystrophy, drugs, electrolyte imbalance, postsurgical.

For acute attacks: intestinal decompression with long tube. Oral antibiotics for bacterial overgrowth (e.g., metronidazole 250 mg PO tid, tetracycline 500 mg PO qid, or ciprofloxacin 500 mg bid 1 week out of each month, usually in an alternating rotation of at least two antibiotics). Avoid surgery. In refractory cases, consider long-term parenteral hyperalimentation.

Vascular Disorders (Small and Large Intestine)
MECHANISMS OF MESENTERIC ISCHEMIA   (1) Occlusive: embolus (atrial fibrillation, valvular heart disease); arterial thrombus (atherosclerosis); venous thrombosis (trauma, neoplasm, infection, cirrhosis, oral contraceptives, antithrombin-III deficiency, protein S or C deficiency, lupus anticoagulant, factor V Leiden mutation, idiopathic); vasculitis (SLE, polyarteritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura); (2) nonocclusive: hypotension, heart failure, arrhythmia, digitalis (vasoconstrictor).
ACUTE MESENTERIC ISCHEMIA   Periumbilical pain out of proportion to tenderness; nausea, vomiting, distention, GI bleeding, altered bowel habits. Abdominal x-ray shows bowel distention, air-fluid levels, thumbprinting (submucosal edema) but may be normal early in course. Peritoneal signs indicate infarcted bowel requiring surgical resection. Early celiac and mesenteric arteriography is recommended in all cases following hemodynamic resuscitation (avoid vasopressors, digitalis). Intraarterial vasodilators (e.g., papaverine) can be administered to reverse vasoconstriction. Laparotomy indicated to restore intestinal blood flow obstructed by embolus or thrombosis or to resect necrotic bowel. Postoperative anticoagulation indicated in mesenteric venous thrombosis, controversial in arterial occlusion.
CHRONIC MESENTERIC INSUFFICIENCY   “Abdominal angina”: dull, crampy periumbilical pain 15–30 min after a meal and lasting for several hours; weight loss; occasionally diarrhea. Evaluate with mesenteric arteriography for possible bypass graft surgery.
ISCHEMIC COLITIS   Usually due to nonocclusive disease in pt with atherosclerosis. Severe lower abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, hypotension. Abdominal x-ray shows colonic dilatation, thumbprinting. Sigmoidoscopy shows submucosal hemorrhage, friability, ulcerations; rectum often spared. Conservative management (NPO, IV fluids); surgical resection for infarction or postischemic stricture.
Colonic Angiodysplasia
In persons over age 60, vascular ectasias, usually in right colon, account for up to 40% of cases of chronic or recurrent lower GI bleeding. May be associated with aortic stenosis. Diagnosis is by arteriography (clusters of small vessels, early and prolonged opacification of draining vein) or colonoscopy (flat, bright red, fernlike lesions). For bleeding, treat by colonoscopic electro- or laser coagulation, band ligation, arteriographic embolization, or, if necessary, right hemicolectomy (Chap. 22).
Anorectal Diseases
HEMORRHOIDS   Due to increased hydrostatic pressure in hemorrhoidal venous plexus (associated with straining at stool, pregnancy). May be external, internal, thrombosed, acute (prolapsed or strangulated), or bleeding. Treat pain with bulk laxative and stool softeners (psyllium extract, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate 100–200 mg/d), sitz baths 1–4/d, witch hazel compresses, analgesics as needed. Bleeding may require rubber band ligation or injection sclerotherapy. Operative hemorrhoidectomy in severe or refractory cases.
ANAL FISSURES   Medical therapy as for hemorrhoids. Internal anal sphincterotomy in refractory cases.
PRURITUS ANI   Often of unclear cause; may be due to poor hygiene, fungal or parasitic infection. Treat with thorough cleansing after bowel movement, topical glucocorticoid, antifungal agent if indicated.
ANAL CONDYLOMAS (GENITAL WARTS)   Wart-like papillomas due to sexually transmitted papillomavirus. Treat with cautious application of liquid nitrogen or podophyllotoxin or with intralesional interferon-a. Tend to recur.

For a more detailed discussion, see Owyang C: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chap. 288, p. 1692; and Isselbacher KJ, Epstein A: Diverticular, Vascular, and Other Disorders of the Intestine and Peritoneum, Chap. 289, p. 1695, in HPIM-15.


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