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Am Fam Physician. 1996 Aug;54(2):611-8, 627.

Constipation in children.

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Alberta Children's Hospital, Calgary, Canada.


Constipation is a common childhood condition, estimated to occur in 5 to 10 percent of children. In most cases, the cause is functional. However, constipation may occasionally indicate a significant organic disorder, which can usually be determined by a thorough history and physical examination. Constipation that is present from birth or that begins in the neonatal period is most likely to be congenital in origin. Acute constipation usually has an organic cause, while chronic constipation usually has a functional cause. Failure to thrive and gross distention of the abdomen suggest the diagnosis of Hirschsprung's disease. Rectal examination of a child with constipation usually reveals a distended rectum that is full of stool. In patients with Hirschsprung's disease, the rectum is usually empty and tight. Laboratory investigations are usually not necessary in patients with mild constipation. Treatment should be directed at the underlying cause. Functional constipation can be managed by changes in diet, regular bowel habits and, if necessary, pharmacologic therapy and biofeedback training.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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