Constipation presenting as respiratory distress

J Adolesc Health Care. 1986 Jul;7(4):255-8. doi: 10.1016/s0197-0070(86)80018-3.


This case report describes a 14-year-old boy presenting with a barrel-chested appearance and a complaint of shortness of breath on exertion. The patient had a long history of severe constipation with overflow incontinence. Physical examination suggested limited diaphragmatic excursion. Initial pulmonary function studies showed a restrictive pattern. Catharsis resulted in an 11-lb weight loss and normalization of pulmonary function. We speculate that the extrinsic upward pressure imposed on the diaphragm by a full bowel resulted in increased anteroposterior diameter, decreased lung height, and a reversible restrictive pattern on pulmonary function studies.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Constipation / complications*
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Constipation / diagnostic imaging
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diaphragm / diagnostic imaging
  • Encopresis / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Radiography