Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
Have you ever seen pouches of fat on a piece of steak? You can kind of think of these as epiploic appendages, or appendices epiploicae, except found on the external surface of your colon. They are normal in people yet they can become inflamed in a condition known as epiploic appendagitis.
Let's learn more about epiploic appendages and their function in this lesson.
The peritoneum (a thin serous membrane of the abdominopelvic cavity) helps encase the epiploic appendages. Epiploic is a word that denotes something pertaining to the omentum. The omentum is a structure formed by the peritoneum.
Again, epiploic appendages are small fat-filled projections, pouches or globules attached to the external surface of the colon via a vascular stalk (like a stem with a blood vessel). They are more numerously found on the surface of the transverse and sigmoid colon. Each appendage is supplied by one or two small colonic end-arteries (arterioles) and a small central vein (venule). Epiploic appendages may also contain lymphatic channels or very small lymph nodes called epiploic nodes. Take a look at the diagram below to get a good idea of how these things look in the bigger context.
Each person has between 50-100 of these little guys. Most of them are about 0.5-5 cm long, although some as long as 15 cm have been reported! Each epiploic appendage is about 1-2 cm thick. On average, however, they measure about 1.5 cm x 3.5 cm. In the grand scheme of things inside our bodies, that's pretty big!
Epiploic appendages tend to be larger in obese individuals and in people who recently lost weight. It's unclear as to why this is the case.
Functions & Pathology
No one is sure what the function of these guys are. There have been some hypotheses, though. For instance, some suspect that they might act as cushions for the colon during peristalsis (digestive movement of the intestines), since they are pretty soft and flexible. Others believe they might play a role in helping the colon absorb nutrients. Perhaps they are also somehow involved in the immune system as well.
What's known a bit better is that if these guys twist or the venule is blocked by a blood clot, a condition known as epiploic appendagitis will occur. Do not get this confused with appendicitis. They are not the same thing! In epiploic appendagitis, the appendage becomes inflamed and undergoes cell death. This is usually a relatively harmless and self-limiting conditions that requires minimal medication. Most cases of epiploic appendagitis resolve without complications or the need for hospitalization within two weeks.
Epiploic appendages or appendices epiploicae, are peritoneum lined globules of fat attached to the external surface of the colon via a vascular stalk. They contain 1-2 arterioles, a venule, and lymphatic channels or a very small lymph node. They are about 0.5-5 cm long, 1-2 cm thick, and about 50-100 in number. They are mainly found on the surface of the transverse and sigmoid colon.
Their function is unclear. Perhaps they have a role in cushioning the colon, in the immune system, or in absorption of nutrients. If twisted or if their blood supply is blocked by a blood clot, then epiploic appendagitis may occur. This is usually a relatively harmless and self-limiting condition.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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