Constipation: a common problem in patients with neurological abnormalities

Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998 Oct;30(5):542-8.


Constipation is a frequent complaint among patients with different neurological diseases. This review provides a brief account of the numerous conditions affecting the central, peripheral and intrinsic (enteric) nervous systems in which constipation can be the only clinical manifestation or a component of a complex syndrome. Recent neuropathophysiological acquisitions show that any structural or functional impairment of the intrinsic innervation of the gut, including both developmental (i.e., Hirschsprung's disease and intestinal neuronal dysplasia) and acquired (i.e., either degenerative or inflammatory neuropathies) disorders, can be associated with constipation. Constipation may also arise from derangements of the peripheral nervous system, including diabetes and primary chronic autonomic failure (pandysautonomias). Finally, in the central nervous system, a wide array of disorders (post-traumatic, degenerative, ischaemic or neoplastic) are recognized to determine bowel dysfunction, ultimately leading to constipation. Further understanding of the fine pathophysiological mechanisms through which the intrinsic and extrinsic nerve supplies to the digestive system are involved in idiopathic constipation or in diseases generating this symptom will hopefully lead to a better treatment of this frequent pathological condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Constipation / physiopathology
  • Digestive System / innervation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*