The transverse colon is a vital component of the digestive system. Also called the large intestine, the colon is the final section of the digestive system. The transverse colon is the longest section of the colon. It acts as a connection appendage between the descending colon and the ascending colon.
Food and other substances which travel across the digestive tract generally tend to remain in the colon for longer periods that other sections of the tract. The liver and the gallbladder are present on the upper border side of the transverse colon, while the lower border is home to the small intestine.
The transverse colon has the strongest of the muscles present in the colon. It is one of the reasons why it is also the most motion-oriented parts of the colon. The strong muscles of the transverse colon forcefully push the digested matter to the next section of the colon, before being finally eliminated from the body. When in the transverse colon, water, vitamins, and other nutrients are extracted from the digested matter and passed into the bloodstream. After all the nutrition and water has been removed, it produces solid waste matter which passes out from the body as stool.
The transverse colon is vulnerable to a variety of problems which in turn can adversely affect the health of an affected individual. For example, transverse colon is at increased risk to developing colon cancer. Problems of the transverse colon are often marked by symptoms like bloody feces, pain in abdomen, rapid loss of weight, and fatigue, etc. individuals who experience any of the symptoms must immediately consult a doctor for diagnosis and relevant treatment.
Transverse colon pain often occurs due to intake of spicy foods. This problem can be treated via varied home remedies. People prone to developing transverse colon pain must avoid the intake of spicy foods. Antacids as well as prescription medications can be used to ease such pain.
Taking steps to maintain a healthy transverse colon can help prevent blockages, pain, and other problems of the transverse colon. This can be achieved by eating a high-fiber and low-fat diet, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, exercising regularly, and drinking lots of water, thereby facilitating easy and normal movement of food materials across the digestive system.
Transverse colon: Structure and Functions
- Anatomy: The transverse colon is a tubular structure measuring about 46 cm in length and 6 cm diametrically. It bends across its length in such a way that its middle portion is behind and below the splenic and hepatic flexures at its tips. The walls of the transverse colon contain several pouch-like structures that form due to contraction of bowel walls’ smooth muscles. The transverse colon commences when the colon takes a left turn at the hepatic flexure and passes into the left side of the abdomen; this turn is a sharp curve near the ascending colon’s superior end, on the abdominal cavity’s right side, just below the liver. After arriving at the left side, it sharply curves once again towards the splenic flexure’s lower section and then continues as the descending colon.
- The transverse colon walls consist of 4 layers of tissues, i.e., mucosa, sub-mucosa, serosa, and muscularis.
- The innermost epithelial tissue layer is the mucosa. It remains in contact with stool and acts as a boundary for the hollow lumen. Goblet cells are present on the mucosa walls; they produce mucus and provide lubrication for the transverse colon, thereby preventing friction of the intestinal walls with the feces as it passes along. The mucosa also helps absorb water and nutrients from the digested materials and passes them to the bloodstream.
- The sub-mucosa layer is present deeper than the mucosa. It supports the intestinal wall’s other 3 layers. Several nerves and blood vessels are present in this layer. They provide nerve impulses, oxygen, and nutrients to the tissues of the other 3 layers. The sub-mucosal veins also pass on water and nutrients extracted from the feces to the body.
- The muscularis consists of many smooth muscle bands that help combine and move the stool across the transverse colon.
- The outermost or last layer of the transverse colon is the serosa. It protects the colon from damage which may be caused by the surroundings. It also produces thin, slimy, and serous fluid which prevents friction between the surroundings and the transverse colon.
- Function: The transverse colon contacts tiny sections of the bowel walls, thereby mixing the stool. This process is called segmentation. During this process, the intestinal bacteria act upon the waste matter and ferment it to produce vitamins and other trace nutrients present in the digestive waste. These nutrients along with water are then absorbed by the transverse colon walls and passed to the body. Later, waves of longitudinal muscle contraction occur slowly to push the stool across the length of the transverse colon, into the descending colon, and finally out of the body.
Problems of the transverse colon
Any kind of transverse colon complication may cause a variety of symptoms such as pain in the upper abdomen, increased flatulence, diarrhea or constipation, pain or other problems during bowel movements, mucus or blood in stool, rectal bleeding, vomiting or nausea, and/or bloating.
Some of the common health problems that affect the transverse colon are listed below:
- Colon cancer can occur directly on the transverse colon wall, or spread from cancer of the other organs. Patients may experience anemia, chronic pain in left or right side of colon, sporadic constipation, and/or elimination of semi-solid stools. It is more prevalent in people over the age of 50 years.
- Infections such as Pseudomembranous colitis, infectious colitis, and diverticulitis.
- Injury to the transverse colon due to direct sharp-force or blunt-force trauma to the abdomen; exposure of the abdomen to radiation during treatment of colon cancer or cancer of other abdominal organs; diagnostic procedures like biopsy or colonoscopy often cause temporary pain; short-term colon pain due to surgery of the transverse colon or other nearby tissues.
- Inflammatory conditions such as microscopic colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Blockages due to intestinal twisting or volvulus, development of adhesions or scar tissue, and fecal impaction.
- Growth of colon polyps. They are usually harmless and non-malignant, but carry the risk of becoming cancerous. They can also cause pain and other problems when, in the later stages, they cause blockages in the transverse colon.
- Vascular conditions like bowel infarction and ischemic colitis.