Physiological tests to predict long-term outcome of total abdominal colectomy for intractable constipation

Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 May;90(5):748-53.


Objective: Total abdominal colectomy (TAC) for intractable constipation has a variable reported success rate that decreases to 50% beyond 2 yr. We hypothesize that this inconsistent outcome can be explained by a more extensive intestinal involvement in some patients.

Design: A consecutive sample of patients with intractable constipation had preoperative evaluations that included both upper and lower GI studies. Stool frequency, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and laxative or enema requirements were compared before and after operation. The study took place in an academic referral center and included 37 consecutive referred patients with severe intractable constipation and colonic dysmotility documented by radiopaque marker studies.

Interventions: TAC, with ileoproctostomy in 34 patients and ileostomy in three.

Main outcome measures: Patients with motility abnormalities only of the lower GI tract were diagnosed as having colonic inertia (CI). Those with motility disorders of both the upper and the lower GI tracts were considered to have generalized intestinal dysmotility (GID) with colon predominance.

Results: Twenty-one patients had CI, and 16 had GID. Ninety percent of CI patients undergoing TAC had a successful outcome with a mean of 23 bowel movements (BMs)/wk at a mean follow-up of 7.5 yr. Although 88% of GID patients had initial improvement, with a mean of 19 BMs/wk at 6 months, only 13% had prolonged relief. After 2 yr, nine of the GID patients had recurrent constipation, and three had severe diarrhea.

Conclusions: This study has identified two distinct types of colonic dysmotility, CI and GID. It has demonstrated the long-term success of TAC for CI and the importance of upper GI physiological studies to identify colon-predominant GID, which has a poor long-term response to TAC.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colectomy*
  • Constipation / physiopathology
  • Constipation / surgery*
  • Defecation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Motility
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications