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Dis Colon Rectum. 1996 Apr;39(4):444-60.

Surgery for constipation: a review.

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Department of Colorectal Surgery, Cleveland Clinic Florida, Fort Lauderdale 33309, USA.



Constipation is related to intestinal motility disorders (colonic inertia (CI)), pelvic floor disturbances (pelvic outlet obstruction), or a combination of both problems. This review summarizes the physiologic and pathophysiologic changes in patients with intractable constipation and gives an overview of surgical treatment options.


Although subtotal colectomy with ileorectal anastomosis is the best surgery for CI, there are still approximately 10 percent of patients who will complain of pain and constipation. A completion proctectomy and an ileoanal pouch procedure may be a viable option in a highly select group of patients. In patients with megabowel, reported results are mixed. Subtotal colectomy, partial colectomy for megacolon, and the Duhamel procedure for megarectum have all been reported with variable results. In patients with an isolated distended sigmoid colon, sigmoid colectomy has achieved good results. Anorectal myectomy has not been proven to be successful in the long term. However, in patients with adult short segment Hirschsprung's disease, myectomy can be successful. Patients with pelvic outlet obstruction can be successfully treated with biofeedback. In a small group of patients with a rectocele or a third degree sigmoidocele, surgical intervention yields a high success rate. Division or resection of the puborectalis muscle is not recommended. In patients with a mixed pattern of CI and pelvic outlet obstruction, surgical intervention alone is often not successful. These patients achieve better results by conservative treatment of pelvic outlet obstruction, followed by a colectomy.


Surgical intervention for patients with intractable constipation is rarely necessary. However, thorough preoperative physiologic testing is mandatory for a successful outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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