Idiopathic constipation: A challenging but manageable problem

Andrea Bischoff, Giulia Brisighelli, Belinda Dickie, Jason Frischer, Marc A. Levitt, Alberto Peña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: A protocol to treat idiopathic constipation is presented. Methods: A contrast enema is performed in every patient and, when indicated, patients are initially submitted to a "clean out" protocol. All patients are started on a Senna-based laxative. The initial dosage is empirically determined and adjusted daily, during a one week period, based on history and abdominal radiographs, until the amount of Senna that empties the colon is reached. The management is considered successful when patients empty their colon daily and stop soiling. If the laxatives dose provokes abdominal cramping, distension, and vomiting, without producing bowel movements, patients are considered nonmanageable. Results: From 2005 to 2012, 215 patients were treated. 121 (56%) were males. The average age was 8.2. years (range: 1-20). 160 patients (74%) presented encopresis. 67 patients (32%) needed a clean out. After one week, 181 patients (84%) achieved successful management, with an average Senna dose of 67. mg (range: 5-175. mg). In 34 patients (16%) the treatment was unsuccessful: 19 were nonmanageable, 3 noncompliant, and 12 continued soiling. At a later follow-up (median: 329. days) the success rate for 174 patients was 81%. Conclusion: We designed a successful protocol to manage idiopathic constipation. The key points are clean out before starting laxatives, individual adjustments of laxative, and radiological monitoring of colonic emptying. Treatment study: Level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1742-1747
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bowel management
  • Encopresis
  • Idiopathic constipation
  • Laxative
  • Senna

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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