Fecal impaction

  • Definition

    A fecal impaction is a large lump of dry, hard stool that remains stuck in the rectum. It is most often seen in patients with long-term constipation.


    Alternative Names

    Impaction of the bowels


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Constipation is when you are not passing stool as often as you normally do. Your stool becomes hard and dry, and it is difficult to pass.

    Fecal impaction is often seen in people who have had constipation for a long time and have been using laxatives. Impaction is even more likely when the laxatives are stopped suddenly. The muscles of the intestines forget how to move stool or feces on their own.

    Persons at risk for chronic constipation and fecal impaction include those who:

    • Do not move around much and spend most of their time in a chair or bed
    • Have diseases of the brain or nervous system that damage the nerves that go to the muscles of the intestines

    Certain drugs slow the passage of stool through the bowels:

    • Anticholinergics, which affect the interaction between nerves and muscles of the bowel
    • Medicines used to treat diarrhea, if they are taken too often
    • Narcotic pain medication, such as methadone and codeine