Objective: Constipation and soiling is a relatively common condition in childhood and its course is often chronic. This study investigated long-term outcome of children with chronic constipation and soiling by following up a cohort of children 6 years after their presentation to a specialist paediatric gastroenterology clinic with chronic constipation and soiling.
Design: Retrospective postal survey.
Setting/sample: All children referred in 1991 to a specialist paediatric gastroenterology clinic accepting both secondary and tertiary referrals.
Measures: A semi-structured postal questionnaire was sent to all families, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was sent to a random sample.
Results: The response rate (of those who could be traced) was 89%. Of these, over a third (36%) still had a problem with constipation and soiling and 17% were using regular laxatives. Three people still having problems with constipation and soiling in the sample were aged over 18 years. No significant difference was found with regard to age, sex or age at referral between the group that improved and the group that did not. Both groups felt they had suffered a high degree of distress because of the problem, with parents highlighting their powerlessness to help their child and the child identifying the embarrassment caused by the problem.
Conclusions: A significant number of children presenting to a specialist paediatric clinic continue to have problems for several years. Further research is needed to identify these cases and to identify which factors promote resolution of the problem.