Assessment of chronic constipation: colon transit time versus defecography

Eur J Radiol. 1999 Dec;32(3):197-203. doi: 10.1016/s0720-048x(99)00037-6.


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the value of radiological colon transit time (CTT) measurements in relation to defecography (DFG) in chronically constipated patients.

Materials and methods: In 30 patients with chronic constipation, total and segmental CTT was determined using radiopaque markers. In all of these patients defecography (DFG) was obtained. The patients were divided into three groups: In group I, 11 patients were classified with idiopathic constipation based on low stool frequency, normal DFG, or absence of symptoms of abnormal defecation. In group II, ten patients with rectal intussusception were diagnosed by DFG. In group III, there were nine patients with rectal prolapse or spastic pelvic floor syndrome, based on results of DFG.

Results: Group I, idiopathic constipation (n = 11), showed increased total CTT (mean, 93 h) and segmental CTT (right colon, 33 h (36%), left colon, 31 h (33%), rectosigmoid, 29 h (31%)). In group II, intussusception (n = 10), patients had normal mean total CTT (54 h) and a relative decrease in rectosigmoid CTT (mean, 13 h (24%)). In group III (n =9), rectal prolapse (n = 5) or spastic pelvic floor syndrome (n = 4), patients showed elevated total (mean, 167 h) and rectosigmoidal CTT (mean, 95 h (57%)). Mean total CTT was significantly different between groups I and II and between groups II and III, and mean rectosigmoidal CTT was significantly different between all three groups (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: The use of total and rectosigmoidal CTT helps to identify the underlying pathophysiology of chronic constipation. Furthermore CTT helps to identify patients, who may benefit from DFG.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colon / diagnostic imaging
  • Colon / physiopathology
  • Colonic Diseases / complications
  • Colonic Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Constipation / physiopathology*
  • Defecography / methods*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Transit*
  • Humans
  • Intussusception / complications
  • Intussusception / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors