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What is Fecal Impaction & How is it Treated?

What is Fecal Impaction?

Fecal Impaction is a health condition in which stools become hardened in colon making it tough for the body to excrete it out. Also known as intestinal obstruction, fecal impaction is a major problem with those who have poor diet which renders the healthy immune system out of sync. In Fecal Impaction, the stool becomes dry and the rectum cannot expel the dry stool out from body. This condition is a result of a situation where the person has been constipated for a long time.

The feces, which are immobile, develop in the rectum region, which leads to chronic form of constipation. Fecal impaction is also known as fecal loading in which stools accumulate in rectum that may be of any consistency. In many cases, the fecal impaction problem can be a major reason for gastrointestinal cancer, which needs early treatment. Any delay in the treatment for fecal impaction can lead to many chronic health conditions, which can become carcinogenic with time.

The symptoms of fecal impaction are quite evident in the body when the fecal impaction problem reaches a mid-danger state. There are many treatments available for fecal impaction and patients need to ensure a good diet, which is rich in fiber and protein to ease the passage of stool. Diet and treatment of this fecal impaction needs to be done under proper medical supervision where medicine needs to be taken in adequate dosage.

Fecal Impaction

What are the Causes of Fecal Impaction?

Fecal impaction occurs when a person is suffering from severe constipation, which in turn is caused due to many factors linked with faulty lifestyle and heavy intake of junk food. Two major factors held responsible for causing constipation includes a diet which lacks fiber, protein and nutrition; and secondly, a sedentary lifestyle. Fecal impaction becomes more prominent during old age due to decreased immunity and weak digestion.

What are the Symptoms of Fecal Impaction?

Fecal impaction can be recognized through some common symptoms, which are evident during the course of this condition. Following are the symptoms of fecal impaction:

How is Fecal Impaction Diagnosed?

Like any other disease, fecal impaction is diagnosed through medical tests and physical examination. The following methods are used for diagnosis of fecal impaction:

  • Physical exam.
  • Past medical history.
  • Studying your symptoms.
  • Presence of swelling or a lump in the abdomen.
  • Auscultation of the abdomen to check for bowel movements.

Air barium or barium enema can be done to check the obstruction by enhancing the image of the colon. In this procedure, a tube is inserted into the colon, the passage of which goes through obstruction caused by fecal impaction.

Computerized Tomography (CT) scan can be done where cross-sectional images of colon are taken to assess the degree of fecal impaction.

X-ray images can be taken from different angles of the colon to diagnose fecal impaction; however, x-ray cannot help in identifying some complications, which occur as a result of fecal impaction.

Ultrasound is done to diagnose the problematic areas in fecal impaction.

Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure, which can be done to diagnose fecal impaction. In this procedure, a thin tube like instrument is inserted inside the lower colon, which is close to the rectum and the colon is checked for diagnosing the cause of fecal impaction.

How is Fecal Impaction Treated?

Treatment for fecal impaction depends on its cause. It is important that correct diagnostic procedures are used to find out the best way to treat a fecal impaction. Given below are some of the methods used for treating fecal impaction:

Hospitalization for Treating Fecal Impaction: Hospitalization needs to be done in most of the cases of fecal impaction, as this is a potentially dangerous condition, which if ignored, can cause more severe health ailments in the patient. Therefore, it is important to stabilize patients suffering from fecal impaction by giving them intravenous fluids to maintain hydration. When the patient is hospitalized for fecal impaction, a nasogastric tube is inserted through the nose and into the stomach to remove any excess fluid and diminish the abdominal swelling. Catheter is inserted into the bladder to flush out the urine.

Enema: Enema is a common remedy for treating fecal impaction. Majority of the times, enema effectively works in relieving fecal impaction and staves the need for surgical procedures.

Diet: Following a fiber rich diet helps in keeping your bowels moving, clears fecal impaction and keeps constipation at bay.

Surgery for Treating Fecal Impaction: If fecal impaction has given rise to other complications or if the fecal impaction does not clear with non-surgical treatments, then surgery needs to be done.

  • Surgery for complete intestinal obstruction is done where a part of intestine, which has fecal impaction, is removed. In cases where a stent is used, then the obstruction has to be removed invariably.
  • Endoscopy is done where a tube is inserted into the colon and the obstruction is cleared. The use of stent is applicable.
  • Stents are generally used to treat patients with colon cancer or to provide temporary relief from fecal impaction when emergency surgery is too risky. You may still need surgery but your condition needs to be stable.
  • If the patient is suffering from pseudo-obstruction, then the patient’s health is monitored on a regular basis to identify the exact cause of disease.
  • If the patient is suffering from paralytic ileus, which is causing the fecal impaction, then medications are prescribed and the patient is given food via nasal tube to prevent any condition of malnutrition.
  • In case of colon enlargement, decompression is done to get instant relief from fecal impaction. Decompression may or may not be a surgical procedure in which colonoscopy can also be carried out.

The Importance of Recognizing Fecal Impaction at an Initial Stage

Severe fecal impaction can be dealt and treated easily when you recognize the symptoms of fecal impaction at an early stage. One needs to be watchful about the situation where regular laxatives have become a norm for regular bowel movements. The moment these laxatives are stopped, there is going to be massive problems in terms of good digestion when sufficient fibers are absent from the digestive tract.

Human colon may develop some major problems when diet and exercise is not proper; therefore, you have to be careful in these two matters so that complications can be avoided at all costs. Fecal impaction is a major problem in those people who regularly face constipation; and when things go out of hand, surgery remains the only option.

If you have been suffering from hard stools very frequently, it is better to seek medical help. You will be prescribed medications, which enable easy and speedy recovery on an immediate basis. Understanding the cause of fecal impaction is essential so that you are free from stomach related ailments and stay healthy for a long time.


  1. Drossman, D. A. (2006). Fecal impaction. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 2(8), 578-580.

  2. Smith, L. E., Wilkins, T., & Lin, H. C. (2013). The role of colonic microbiota in colonic physiology and its relation to fecal impaction. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 25(2), 89-97.

  3. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. (n.d.). Fecal Impaction. https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/fecal-impaction-expanded-version

  4. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Fecal impaction. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fecal-impaction/symptoms-causes/syc-20351397

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 16, 2023

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