Fact Check: About That Time a Man's Colon Literally 'Fell Out' After a Sneezing, Coughing Fit

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A Florida man's colon fell out of his abdomen after he sneezed and coughed while eating breakfast with his wife.


Rating: True
Rating: True


The man had abdominal surgery 15 days prior to the incident. When he coughed and sneezed, the wound from his surgery reopened.


In early June 2024, several news sites reported on a rather unexpected medical emergency: A Florida man's colon fell out after a round of sneezing and coughing. According to the reports, the 63-year-old was at a diner eating breakfast with his wife when, after a forceful sneeze and coughing, the man felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and a "wet" sensation. When he looked down, part of his colon was protruding out of his abdomen. Snopes readers wrote to us asking if it's actually possible to sneeze or cough so hard that your colon falls out.

Man's intestines fell out of his body after he coughed and sneezed
Man's intestines fell out of his body after he coughed and sneezed

(@dailystar / X)

We were able to determine that the event did actually happen, although it's not something to be particularly concerned about. One of the stories we read mentioned that a full case study on the event was published in the American Journal of Medical Case Reports. Indeed, looking at the journal's website, we were easily able to find the case report in question. However, after reading through the whole report, we concluded that the headlines were rather sensationalized, and there's no reason to worry that your colon will fall out of your belly.

The main point left out of the headline was the fact that the man had recently had surgery in his abdominal area. According to the case report, the man was diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer 9 years prior, but the cancer had recently come back. The man received several months radiation therapy in the lower abdominal area, which led to complications in his bladder and kidneys. In order to resolve those complications, doctors decided that the best course of action would be to remove the man's bladder, a surgical procedure called a cystectomy. That surgery was performed successfully just 15 days prior to the main event. On the day of the event, the man visited his clinic to have the staples on his wound removed, and then went to celebrate by getting breakfast with his wife.

What actually happened while the man was eating breakfast is a series of two things:

First, the man's wound dehisced, the technical medical term for when a closed wound reopens. The man was absolutely at risk for this, between his recent surgery and radiation therapy (which can effect the body's ability to heal wounds). As suggested by both the news articles and the case study, it was absolutely the sneezing and coughing that reopened the wound. Doctors tell patients who have abdominal surgery to not lift heavy things for a while after their surgery for the same reason: lifting heavy things, sneezing, coughing and vomiting all dramatically change the amount of pressure and tension on a relatively fresh abdominal wound.

The second thing that happened was evisceration, the technical medical term for when organs inside the abdomen end up outside of it. It was the evisceration, an unusual complication for any type of surgery, that made this case special. Throughout our research on this story, we noticed that many of the articles incorrectly used the word "colon" to describe the part of the bowels that had fallen out through the reopened wound. However, the eviscerated bowels were not the man's "colon" (read: the largest part of the large intestine) — the case review simply said it was "part of his bowel" (read: intestines, both small and large). Furthermore, the case review mentioned that the doctors "inspected the full length of the small bowel and noted no evidence of injury" (read: small intestine). To us, this implied that part of the man's small intestines fell out, not his colon.

The case review then described how the patient was treated over the next six days, after which he was successfully discharged.

In other words, your bowels suddenly popping out of your abdomen is not something to worry about unless you've had abdominal surgery in the last two weeks.


"63-Year-Old Man's Colon Falls out after Sneezing and Coughing at the Same Time. Here's What Happened." Hindustan Times, 9 June 2024, https://www.hindustantimes.com/trending/63yearold-mans-colon-falls-out-after-sneezing-and-coughing-at-the-same-time-heres-what-happened-101717923060028.html.

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