Transient intestinal obstruction due to stool impaction in the elderly

Young Hye Byun, Young Sook Park, Seok Jin Myung, Woo Youn Eom, Won Wook Choi, Tae Hun Kim, Yun Ju Jo, Seong Hwan Kim, Moon Hee Song

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BACKGROUND/AIMS: Acute intestinal obstruction is an urgent disease to be diagnosed and treated promptly. In elderly, fecal impaction may be an important and preventable cause of colonic obstruction. We investigated the clinical features of patients presenting with identical features of intestinal obstruction transiently due to fecal impaction. METHODS: From February 2001 to March 2004, nineteen patients were diagnosed as transient intestinal obstruction due to fecal impaction. We evaluated clinical characteristics, radiologic findings, sigmoidoscopic or colonoscopic findings and managements. RESULTS: Male and female ratio was 1:1.1. Mean age was 79.3 years. All 19 patients had abdominal pain and distension. On digital rectal examination, the hard feces was palpable in only 8 patients (42%) while others showed empty rectum. The abnormal laboratory findings included leukocytosis in 5 patients (26%), anemia in 10 patients (53%) and electrolyte abnormalities in 7 patients (37%). Simple abdominal X-rays showed diffuse small and/or large bowel dilatations. In only 3 patients (16%) air-fluid levels were definite, but most patients showed abundant feces in the rectum and colon. During emergency sigmoidoscopy, abdominal pain and distension were relieved and there were Bristol type 1 hard stool in the recto-sigmoid junction in 7 patients (37%) and multiple rectal ulcers in 1 patient. On colonoscopy, there were no mass or pathologic obstruction in all patients. Patients were discharged after the adequate medication and toilet training. CONCLUSIONS: In elderly patients, fecal impaction is odd and preventable cause of intestinal obstruction. It is often significant to differentiate fecal impaction from other pathologic conditions in patients with chronic constipation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalThe Korean journal of gastroenterology = Taehan Sohwagi Hakhoe chi
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


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