BACKGROUND Faecal impaction is frequently observed in children with chronic constipation. The term megarectum is often used to describe this finding.
AIM To evaluate rectal functioning and rectal measures in constipated children with a filled rectum, in order to define the terms faecal impaction, enlarged rectum, and megarectum.
METHODS All children underwent radiological investigation, colonic transit time study, anorectal manometry, and rectal volume and rectal wall compliance measurements. Patients with faecal impaction were compared with controls, who had an empty rectum on digital rectal examination.
RESULTS A total of 31 patients and six controls were included in the study. The mean duration of complaints was 4.2 years and all had faecal incontinence. The colonic transit times in the patients showed a distinct delay in the rectosigmoid segment. Anorectal manometry was not significantly different between patients and controls. The rectal width in patients was 0.68 and in controls 0.52 with an upper limit of 0.61. The pressure–volume curve in patients showed significant less relaxation at a distension of 50 ml. The slope of the curve (corresponding with rectal wall compliance) was comparable for patients and controls.
CONCLUSIONS We suggest that faecal impaction is a filled rectum found on digital rectal examination; an enlarged rectum is defined by a rectopelvic ratio greater than 0.61; and megarectum is defined in those with significant abnormalities found with anorectal manometry, pressure–volume curves, or rectal compliance investigation. A diminished relaxation of the rectum on rectal distension could be the first sign of megarectum in children with chronic constipation.
- faecal incontinence
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