Severe idiopathic constipation can be categorised based on physiological testing into subgroups including slow transit constipation and pelvic floor dysfunction. This study aimed to determine if colonic and psychological symptoms, or rectosigmoid transit times, could discriminate among these subgroups. Patients, categorised according to total colonic transit times and pelvic floor function testing, completed a self report questionnaire that recorded symptoms and psychological distress. Patients with normal transit constipation (n=60) had significantly increased depression scores compared with those who had slow transit constipation (n=70) or pelvic floor dysfunction (n=30). The general severity index (GSI, a measure of overall psychological distress) negatively but weakly correlated with total colonic transit (r=0.26, p<0.01). A feeling of anal blockage was the only symptom that was associated with pelvic floor dysfunction (v normal transit constipation). Only a more regular defecation pattern, utilisation of different postures to defecate, and a feeling of incomplete evacuation were associated with slow v normal transit constipation. Psychological or colonic symptoms were not, however, significant discriminators in a multivariate analysis. Rectosigmoid transit times at 80% sensitivity had very poor specificity for discriminating pelvic floor dysfunction from other subgroups. It is concluded that clinical symptoms, psychological distress, and rectosigmoid transit times cannot be used to identify subgroups of patients with intractable constipation.
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