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Megacolon. Gross specimen of a colon, part of which is seen to be grossly swollen (right). Megacolon is a chronic condition that can be congenital (as in Hirschsprung's disease) or acquired (possibly due to constipation). Ulcerative colitis (ulceration of the colon) and obstruction due to a tumour are other possible causes. Severe and chronic inflammatory disorders may impair nerve function to the bowel, causing cessation of muscular activity, swelling, and then gangrene. At this latter stage the condition would be called toxic megacolon, which is potentially life threatening.

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