Diagnosis

Your child's doctor will:

  • Gather a complete medical history. Your child's doctor will ask you about your child's past illnesses. He or she will also likely ask you about your child's diet and physical activity patterns.
  • Conduct a physical exam. Your child's physical exam will likely include placing a gloved finger into your child's anus to check for abnormalities or the presence of impacted stool. Stool found in the rectum may be tested for blood.

More-extensive testing is usually reserved for only the most severe cases of constipation. If necessary, these tests may include:

  • Abdominal X-ray. This standard X-ray test allows your child's doctor to see if there are any blockages in your child's abdomen.
  • Anorectal manometry or motility test. In this test, a thin tube called a catheter is placed in the rectum to measure the coordination of the muscles your child uses to pass stool.
  • Barium enema X-ray. In this test, the lining of the bowel is coated with a contrast dye (barium) so that the rectum, colon and sometimes part of the small intestine can be clearly seen on an X-ray.
  • Rectal biopsy. In this test, a small sample of tissue is taken from the lining of the rectum to see if nerve cells are normal.
  • Transit study or marker study. In this test, your child will swallow a capsule containing markers that show up on X-rays taken over several days. Your child's doctor will analyze the way the markers move through your child's digestive tract.
  • Blood tests. Occasionally, blood tests are performed, such as a thyroid panel.
Aug. 18, 2016
References
  1. Nurko S, et al. Evaluation and treatment of constipation in children and adolescents. American Family Physician. 2014;90:82.
  2. Schrank KS. Constipation. In: Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  3. Constipation in children. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/healthinformation/healthtopics/digestivediseases/constipationinchildren/Pages/allcontent.aspx. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  4. Kuizenga-Wessel S, et al. Functional constipation and incontinence. In: Pediatric Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  5. Sood MR. Functional constipation in infants and children: Clinical features and differential diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  6. Constipation in children. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/symptoms-in-infants-and-children/constipation-in-children. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  7. Sood MR. Prevention and treatment of acute constipation in infants and children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 8, 2016.
  8. Davis JL. Identifying underlying emotional instability and utilizing a combined intervention in the treatment of childhood constipation and encopresis: A case report. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2016;22:489.
  9. Constipation. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed July 12, 2016.
  10. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed July 21, 2016.