Management of Faecal Impaction

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Faecal impaction is a large lump of dry, hard stool that stays lodged in the rectum and cannot pass out of the body, usually caused by chronic constipation.

Faecal impaction is a large lump of dry, hard stool that stays lodged in the rectum and cannot pass out of the body. It is also called impaction of bowels.  The most common cause of faecal impaction is chronic constipation. Constipation is when the body cannot pass stool as one normally does, consequently, the stool becomes dry and hard and difficult to pass. It may also be caused by overuse of laxatives. This is because the muscles of the intestines have become accustomed to the laxatives that they no longer remember how to pass stool or faeces on their own. The intestinal muscles become less incapable of responding naturally to having a bowel movement. Outcome is typically very good with treatment.

Causes of Faecal Impaction

The following may lead to the formation of large masses of dry, hard stool that is usually found in cases of faecal impaction:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Sudden cessation of laxative use
  • Use of certain drugs, including anticholinergics, medications for diarrhoea, and narcotic pain medications
  • Little activity or inactivity for prolonged periods of time
  • Changes in the diet

Risk Factors for Faecal Impaction

Although faecal impaction can happen to anyone, the following may increase a person’s risks of developing faecal impaction:

  • Persons who spend a lot of time in a chair are bed-ridden
  • Having brain or nervous system diseases that damage the nerves that interact with the intestinal muscles
  • Having certain types of mental disorders or illnesses

Signs and Symptoms of Faecal Impaction

Signs and symptoms of faecal impaction do not always manifest in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the commonly associated signs and symptoms of faecal impaction include:

  • Unable to pass stool
  • Straining during bowel movements, which sometimes result to just small amounts of hard, dry stool
  • Little or fewer than normal number of bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Sudden diarrhoea
  • Back or abdominal pain
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urinary problems, such as increase or decrease than normal amount or unable to urinate at all
  • Problems with breathing
  • Quick heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration

Management of Faecal Impaction

                Main goals of treatment for faecal impaction include removal of stool and taking preventive measures to avoid future faecal impactions. In some cases, faecal impaction can be managed at home but this can only be used to treat small masses. To remove the impacted stool, the following treatments may be done:

  • Place warm mineral oil, called enema, to soften and lubricate the stool so that it can be passed by the body.
  • Manual removal is another option where the mass is broken by hand by a medical practitioner.
  • In very few, limited cases, surgery may be done.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal first aid training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary.


Fecal Impaction. (2011, January 31).  National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from

Fecal Impaction (2012, July 16). National Institutes of Health: National Cancer Institute. Retrieved on October 18, 2013, from


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