Fecal impaction is when stool cannot exit the body.
The Digestive Pathway
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
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.
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.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116186/Constipation-in-adults . Updated November 22, 2017. Accessed December 20, 2017.
Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900171/Constipation-in-children . 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