What Is a Perforated Sigmoid Colon?

The sigmoid colon is the last section of the large intestine, right before the rectum, states WebMD. A perforation is a hole in the gastrointestinal system. Thus, a perforated sigmoid colon is a hole that develops in this section of the large intestine. It is a life-threatening surgical emergency.

Symptoms of a bowel perforation include severe abdominal pain, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, according to MedlinePlus. The perforation allows intestinal contents to leak into the abdominal cavity, resulting in peritonitis. This severe infection causes many of the symptoms associated with the condition.

A bowel perforation is diagnosed based on a thorough history and physical in conjunction with an abdominal X-ray or CT scan, explains Amber J. Tresca for About.com. The abdomen is usually rigid and painful to touch. An X-ray may show free air in the abdominal cavity. A CT scan is especially useful because it can show the exact location of the hole. A CBC may show a high white blood cell count, notes MedlinePlus.

Treatment of a perforation almost always involves surgery to repair the hole, according to MedlinePlus. A colostomy may be required temporarily to allow the intestine to heal. If part of the intestine has begun to die, it is removed. Rarely, the hole closes on its own, requiring only antibiotics for treatment.