How to Say It: Fee-kal Im-pak-shun
Fecal impaction is when stool (poop) cannot leave the body. Without treatment, it can lead to other problems.
The Digestive Pathway
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
This problem is caused by:
Fecal impaction is more common in people over 65 years old and toddlers. Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms may include:
Older people and those with certain brain problems may also have:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may include a rectal exam with a gloved finger. Blood tests may also be done.
Images can show how severe the problem is. The doctor may look at the intestines with:
The goals are to remove the stuck stool and treat underlying causes. Options are:
Medicines to help pass the stool, such as:
Medicines may be needed until the bowel works well again.
The doctor may also remove the stool. Options are:
Fecal impaction can often be prevented with:
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/a_to_z/constipation-and-impaction-a-to-z . Accessed July 30, 2021.
Constipation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-adults . Accessed July 30, 2021.
Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/constipation-in-children . Accessed July 30, 2021.
Gastrointestinal complications. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/gi-complications-pdq#section/_15. Accessed July 30, 2021.
Serrano Falcón B, Barceló López M, et al. Fecal impaction: a systematic review of its medical complications. BMC Geriatr. 2016;16:4
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Dan Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 7/30/2021