How Do You Unblock an Impacted Bowel?

Medically Reviewed on 10/19/2022
Unblock an Impacted Bowel
Fecal impaction in turn disturbs the normal digestion process.

Fecal impaction, also called bowel impaction, may result from prolonged constipation when the mass of dry and hard stools is stuck in the colon or rectum and cannot pass.

Treatment of fecal impaction includes the removal of blockage or hard stools obstructed in the colon or rectum. If left untreated, this obstruction can cause serious complications.

The following are the treatment options for fecal impaction:

  • Laxatives: The doctor first uses oral laxatives to loosen the stools. Sometimes, they may use a medicated suppository placed in the rectum to loosen the stools.
  • Remove manually: If the laxatives do not clear the fecal obstruction, your doctor may try to remove it manually. To do this, your doctor will put on gloves, insert a finger into the rectum, and remove the stools manually.
  • Enema: Enema is a common way to treat an impacted bowel. If the doctor cannot remove the hard stools using laxatives or manually, then your doctor goes for an enema. Enema is a procedure in which a small bottle is filled with a specific liquid, and a nozzle is attached. The nozzle is inserted into the rectum and then the bottle is gently squeezed to release the liquid into the rectum. This liquid goes into the rectum, moistens the stools, and then loosens them, which are then excreted.

What is an impacted bowel?

The food you eat gets digested in the gut. The nutrients from the food are absorbed through the gut lining when it passes through your gut. The remaining waste is excreted out of the body through the rectum and anus.

Most of the water from your food is absorbed in the body when the food gets into the colon. If regular bowel movements do not occur, the stools in the lower part of the colon and rectum may become hard and dry, resulting in fecal impaction.

Fecal impaction in turn disturbs the normal digestion process. It is mostly seen in people with severe constipation for a longer period.

What are the symptoms of an impacted bowel?

Symptoms of an impacted bowel or fecal impaction include:

Fecal impaction must be treated immediately. If it is left untreated, the symptoms may worsen, such as:


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What are the causes of an impacted bowel?

Fecal impactions are common in older people.

Causes of fecal impaction include:

  • Constipation: One of the most common causes of an impacted bowel. It is painful, and you may feel bloated. When stool does not pass, the stools become dry and lodge in the colon, causing impacted bowel or fecal impaction.
    • Causes of constipation include:
      • Dietary habits, such as low fiber intake. Women must consume at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber and men should have 30 to 38 grams a day.
      • Sedentary habits or a lack of regular exercise results in constipation.
      • Low intake of fluids leads to dry and hard stools resulting in constipation.
      • Ignoring the urge to defecate due to reasons, such as lack of access to toilets.
      • Medications, such as anticholinergics. Excess use of medicines that are used to treat diarrhea. Narcotic pain medicines, such as methadone, codeine, and oxycontin cause constipation.
      • Anal fissures or hemorrhoids, the severe pain caused by anal fissures and hemorrhoids, make a person avoid defecating, resulting in constipation.
  • Laxatives: Overuse of laxatives is a common cause of fecal impaction. Due to repeated usage of laxatives, the body depends on laxatives for defecation. Stools start to build up in the colon, causing fecal impaction.
  • Other medical conditions:

How to diagnose an impacted bowel

There are several ways to diagnose an impacted bowel, such as:

  • Medical history: Your doctor will ask for the history of when your last stools passed along with the consistency of the stools. In addition, your doctor needs to know if you have been on laxatives or are often constipated. Another general question you can expect is how much water you drink in a day, the type of diet, and the history of any medications you take.
  • Physical examination: Your doctor checks for overall health and may perform a digital rectal exam. For doing a digital rectal exam, your doctor will put on gloves, add lubricant to one finger and insert it into the rectum to feel any fecal impactions or other problems.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: During a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor uses a sigmoidoscope (a thin tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to look inside your lower colon and rectum. They will try to inspect for fecal impaction or other conditions causing symptoms.

Tips for healthy bowel movements

  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated always
  • Regular exercises help move the bowel healthily
  • High fiber-containing foods include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Manage stress
Medically Reviewed on 10/19/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Fecal impaction.

Fecal Impaction.

What Is Fecal Impaction?