The colon, considered in its entirety, is essentially an organ of elimination and resorption. Its muscular wall endows it with the property of expansion and retraction, and the variation of its axis and caliber controls the current of its contents toward the anus. Deviation from this physiologic process is recognized as a pathologic condition which may manifest itself in frequent discharges, or by sluggishness. Hyperactivity would indicate an exaggeration of its function by virtue of disease within its chambers or upper tracts, that is, it may be extramural or a neurosis. Sluggishness or atony signifies its inability to mobilize its contents by reason of impaired musculature or innervation, giving rise to the adynamic or subnormal colon. The word "atony," which seems best to express the condition, is derived etymologically from the Greek word "teinein," negative "a," which signifies literally to stretch, a translation that we may liberalize into expansion, contraction
BEACH WM. THE SUBNORMAL COLON FUNCTION. JAMA. 1918;71(18):1453–1456. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1918.02600440005002
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