Soap Suds Enemas Are Efficacious and Safe for Treating Fecal Impaction in Children With Abdominal Pain

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016 Jul;63(1):15-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001073.


Objectives: Constipation is a common cause of pediatric abdominal pain and emergency department (ED) presentation. Despite the high prevalence, there is a dearth of clinical information and wide practice variation in childhood constipation management in the ED. The objective of the study was to assess the efficacy and safety of soap suds enema (SSE) in the therapy for fecal impaction in children with abdominal pain within the pediatric ED setting. The primary outcome was stool output following SSE. Secondary outcomes were adverse events, admissions, and return visits within 72 hours.

Methods: The present study is a retrospective cross-sectional study performed in the ED at a quaternary care children's hospital of patients seen during a 12-month period who received an SSE for fecal impaction.

Results: Five hundred twelve patients (53% girls, median age 7.8 years, range: 8 months-23 years) received SSE therapy during a 1-year period. Successful therapy (bowel movement) following SSE occurred in 419 (82%). Adverse events included abdominal pain in 24 (5%) and nausea/vomiting in 18 (4%). No SSE-related serious adverse events were identified. Following SSE, 405 (79%) were subsequently discharged, of which 15 (3.7%) returned to the ED for re-evaluation within 72 hours.

Conclusions: SSE is an efficacious and safe therapeutic option for the acute treatment of childhood fecal impaction in the ED setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Enema*
  • Fecal Impaction / complications
  • Fecal Impaction / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Soaps / administration & dosage*
  • Texas
  • Young Adult


  • Soaps