Did chronic constipation kill The King? Could a colostomy have been his cure?

Fox News’ Hollie McKay claims that it was Elvis’ constipated colon that caused his last curtain to fall. McKay reports that, according to Elvis Presley’s now-retired personal physician, Dr. “Nick” Nichopoulos, The King’s autopsy revealed that his large intestine was twice the diameter and twice the length of a normal colon. The article speculates that something called “Hershberger’s disease” could have been the underlying cause (This is just a careless mistake because what Dr. Nick is referring to is Hirschsprung’s Disease, an unlikely explanation of Elvis’ constipation because this disease — also known as aganglionic megacolon — is a congenital disease of newborn children who, if untreated with surgery, die within a few weeks).

People seem to be very interested in, even obsessed with, their bowel habits and advertisers take advantage of this. How many radio commercials have you heard about treatments to remove pounds of poop plastered  “on the colon wall like spackle or paste.”  And how many celebrities have you heard about using “cleanses” (sometimes just a nice word for enemas) to address any of a number of health problems caused by “toxins” in the body? In part 2 of this story, we’ll review how solid waste is formed and eliminated and some of the causes and cures for commons causes of constipation.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.


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