Constipation in Children | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is constipation diagnosed?

Most children with constipation do not need any specific testing. However, for children with constipation that does not resolve with dietary or therapeutic measures, sophisticated motility tests are necessary to understand exactly how your child’s entire gastrointestinal system is working. These tests may include:

  • Anorectal manometry: A test that measures rectal nerve reflexes, which are the key indicators of this disease.
  • Colonic manometry: An advanced test that shows how the whole colon is moving.
  • Colorectal transit study: This procedure uses X-rays to monitor the movement of markers through the intestine and colon.
  • Barium enema: A procedure to examine the large intestine for abnormalities. We place a fluid called barium into the rectum as an enema. Barium is a chalky liquid that coats the inside of the organs so they show up clearly on an x-ray.
  • Biopsy of the rectum or large intestine: We take a sample of the cells in your child’s rectum or large intestine and examine them under a microscope.
  • Colonoscopy: We gently insert a long, flexible, lighted tube through the rectum and up into the colon to view the entire colon.
  • MRI of the spine: A specialized x-ray to look at the nerves of the spine

How is constipation treated?

Once your clinician is able to determine the cause of your child’s constipation, treatment may include:
  • changes in diet, habits or exercise
  • specific medications, including new medications
  • Behavioral therapy
  • appendicostomy (a surgical procedure to flush out and empty the colon by creating an opening outside the belly)
  • other surgical procedures