Alternative names: Impaction of the bowels
Fecal Impaction is an extreme form of constipation in which the contents of the colon become hard and dry, creating a blockage and making it impossible to have a bowel movement. As a result, the contents of the intestines become backed up, leading to potentially serious complications if left untreated.
Once fecal impaction occurs, the colon is unable move the contents of the intestines through the body using its normal contraction process, peristalsis.
Risk factors include
The symptoms of fecal impaction include:
Symptoms of severe fecal impaction include:
Diagnosis involves a physical examination and digital rectal exam (DRE) to check for hardened abdominal mass(es) in the abdomen and colon. Once fecal impaction is suspected, an ultrasound, sigmoidoscopy or barium enema may be used to obtain a better view of the colon and rectum.
Laxatives are usually the first mode of treatment. A warm mineral oil enema is often used to lubricate the stool. If those don't work, it becomes necessary for a doctor to manually break up the mass and remove feces from the colon with a gloved hand. If that doesn't work then an enema or water irrigation may be used. In rare cases, surgery is required.
The best way to prevent fecal impaction is to avoid constipation. Drinking plenty of water, eating fiber-rich foods, reducing sugar intake, and exercise are also good preventive measures.
An overly widened colon (megacolon) or complete blockage of the bowel requires emergency removal of the impaction.