by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Fecal impaction is when stool cannot exit the body.
Stool may not be able to exit the body if it is too large, hard and dry, and/or the intestinal muscles are too weak.
Factors that may increase your chances of fecal impaction:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This may include a rectal exam. Blood tests may also be needed.
Images of your abdomen may be needed to see how severe the impaction is. This can be done with:
The tension on the anal sphincter may also be measured. The sphincter is a small muscle that holds feces in or allows it to pass out.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Your doctor may start with medications to help you pass the stool. These may include:
Medications may need to be continued until your bowel begins to work normally again.
Removing the Impacted Stool
The impacted stool may need to be removed. Options include:
To help return your bowel function to normal and prevent future problems:
American Gastrointestinal Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Constipation and impaction. Harvard Health Publishing website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/constipation-and-impaction. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Constipation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated August 24, 2017. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Gastrointestinal complications. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/gi-complications-pdq#section/_15. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 2/7/2018
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