The hepatic flexure, also known as the right colic flexure, is found in the digestive system of the human body and creates the bend in the colon that connects the ascending colon and the transverse colon. The name of this structure is influenced by its proximity to the liver — the word hepatic comes from hēpar, which means "liver" in Greek. A flexure is a bend or a fold.
The ascending colon lies on one side of the hepatic flexure, near the right portion of the liver and the gallbladder. The ascending colon begins at the cecum, a pouch found on the colon, also known as the large intestine. From the cecum, it travels throughout the right side of the abdomen, eventually connecting to the part of the large intestine known as the transverse colon.
The transverse portion of the colon is the longest section of the large intestine. This is also the colon segment that is capable of the most movement. It crosses the abdomen, traveling to the left side and ending near the spleen. The transverse colon also attaches to the border of the pancreas.
Hepatic flexure syndrome is a relatively common medical issue and can cause gas pains and abdominal discomfort. This pain is typically felt in the upper right portion of the abdomen and is thought to be caused by an abnormal accumulation of gas in the area. This syndrome is fairly easy to confuse with other abdominal disorders, so proper testing and medical intervention is important.
Liver function tests are among the medical testing generally ordered when this condition is suspected. If the results are normal, yet the painful episodes are persistent, this syndrome is the most common culprit. There have been instances in which the gallbladder has been removed in the hopes of obtaining pain relief for the patient, but if the problem is due to this particular issue, the surgery will not relieve the pain and discomfort.
Dietary changes are often enough to reduce the painful symptoms of hepatic flexure syndrome. Patient are often told to avoid foods such as beans, milk, and carbonated beverages. In extreme cases, surgical intervention may be required.