Functional constipation refractory to medical management: The colon is the problem


      • Treating refractory functional constipation requires a collaborative approach by surgeons and gastroenterologists.
      • The work-up should include a contrast enema, anorectal manometry for assessment of the sphincters, and a colonic motility evaluation.
      • Antegrade flushes are effective and colon resections can be avoided in most cases, regardless of underlying colonic dysmotility.



      Management of refractory constipation in children has not been standardized. We propose a protocolized approach which includes a contrast enema, anorectal manometry and exclusion of Hirschsprung disease (HD). For those without HD or with normal sphincters, an assessment of the colonic motility may be needed. The subgroups of dysmotility include (1) slow motility with contractions throughout, (2) segmental dysmotility (usually the sigmoid), or (3) a diffusely inert colon. We offered a Malone appendicostomy in all groups with the hope that this would avoid colonic resection in most cases.


      Patients with medically refractory constipation were reviewed at a single institution (2020 to 2021). For patients without HD or an anal sphincter problem, assessment of colonic motility using colonic manometry was performed followed by a Malone appendicostomy for antegrade flushes.


      Of 196 patients evaluated for constipation refractory to medical management, 22 were felt to have a colonic motility cause. These patients underwent colonic manometry and Malone appendicostomy. 13 patients (59%) had a slow colon but with HAPCs throughout, 5 (23%) had segmental dysmotility, and 4 (18%) had a diffuse colonic dysmotility. 19 (86%) responded well to antegrade flushes with 17 reporting no soiling and 2 having occasional accidents. 3 patients (14%) failed flushes and underwent a colon resection within 6-month following Malone procedure.


      We propose a protocol for medically refractory constipation which provides a collaborative framework to standardize evaluation and management of these patients with antegrade flushes, which aids in avoidance of colonic resection in most cases.

      Level of evidence

      Level IV


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