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Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Aug 2;8(9):502-11. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2011.130.

Constipation in childhood.

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Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam Medical Center, Meigbergdreef 9, Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, The Netherlands.


Constipation in children is an often long-lasting pediatric functional gastrointestinal disorder with a worldwide prevalence varying between 0.7% and 29.6%, and estimated health-care costs of US$3.9 billion per year in the USA alone. The pathophysiology of childhood constipation is multifactorial and remains incompletely understood; however, withholding of stools, starting after an experience of a hard, painful, or frightening bowel movement is the most common cause found in children. A thorough medical history and physical examination, including a rectal examination in combination with a bowel diary, is sufficient in the majority of cases to diagnose constipation. The current standard treatment consists of education, toilet training, disimpaction, maintenance therapy and long-term follow-up. In the past decade, well-designed treatment trials in the pediatric population have emerged and long-term outcome studies have been completed. This Review summarizes the current knowledge of the clinical aspects of childhood constipation, including pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment, with particular emphasis on the latest available data.

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