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Gastroenterology. 1989 Oct;97(4):932-7.

Psychological and physiological characteristics of patients with severe idiopathic constipation.

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Department of Medicine, Montefiore Hospital, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.


This study prospectively evaluated psychological profiles and selected parameters of colonic and anorectal sensorimotor function in 25 consecutive patients who were referred for severe idiopathic constipation. Measurement of colonic transit of radiopaque markers divided patients into those with normal transit (n = 10) and those with slow transit (n = 15). As measured by the Hopkins Symptom Checklist, patients with normal transit constipation demonstrated significantly higher scores for psychological distress in the global symptoms index and nine clinical subscales than did those with slow transit constipation and gastrointestinal control subjects (n = 25). Both groups with constipation had decreased rectal sensation compared with controls but there was no relationship to rectal compliance or threshold of internal sphincter relaxation. There was also no relation between abnormalities of anorectal parameters, including expulsion dynamics, and psychological profiles in two groups. Measurement of colonic transit and psychological profiles in patients with severe idiopathic constipation identify two groups of patients with respect to possible pathogenesis of symptoms. Accordingly, different therapeutic approaches may be required, one behaviourally and psychologically based and the other focused on the possible modification of disordered colonic transit.

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