DESCRIPTIONFecal impaction is a severe form of constipation in which a large mass of feces cannot be passed. Fecal impaction is not a serious condition, but it complicates other illnesses. The lower colon and rectum are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Doctor's or nurse's treatment to remove feces manually or by enema.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSAbsence of normal bowel movements.
Thin, watery discharge from the child's rectum.
Sense of fullness in the rectum, but inability to pass stool.
Lack of urinary control.
A firm mass in the lower left abdomen (sometimes).
Pain or cramps (sometimes). Impaction often develops slowly without discomfort.
Low fever (sometimes).
CAUSESRectal disorders that make your child's normal bowel movements uncomfortable, such as painful hemorrhoids or anal fissure.
Rectal or colon tumors.
Barium that is swallowed for X-rays of the intestinal tract.
Loss of nerve supply to the colon or rectum, as with a spinal-cord injury.
Insufficient fiber and liquid in the child's diet.
RISK FACTORSProlonged bed rest for any condition, such as surgery or fracture.
Back disorders with nerve pressure.
Decreased fluid and fiber intake.
Use of some drugs, such as narcotic pain killers, atropine, phenothiazines, or tricyclic anti-depressants.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
If confined to bed, your child should drink extra fluids and increase consumption of dietary fiber.
If simple constipation develops, the child can use a mild laxative, such as milk of magnesia, or a stool softener, or an enema.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam, including a rectal exam, by a doctor.
A child who has a serious congenital heart disease may suffer fatal rupture of the heart muscle while straining to pass a fecal impaction.
Rectal prolapse (protrusion outside the body).
Aggravation of hemorrhoids.
Usually curable with treatment, but recurrence is common unless the underlying cause is removed.
If your doctor prescribes it, use an oil-retention enema on the child before and after manual removal of the impaction. Follow instructions on the package.
See Constipation (in Illnesses section) for suggestions to improve bowel habits.
MEDICATIONAfter removal of the impaction, your doctor may prescribe laxatives or stool softeners for your child.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
No restrictions. Your child should be as active as possible. Good physical fitness improves bowel function.
DIET & FLUIDSUrge your child to eat a normal, well-balanced diet high in fiber.
Encourage your child to drink at least 8 glasses of fluid each day.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of a fecal impaction.
Your child's normal bowel pattern changes.
Your child cannot pass feces while under treatment for other conditions.