fecal impaction

Fecal impaction is a mass of dry, hard stool that can’t be eliminated by a normal bowel movement. Fecal impaction often follows an extended period of constipation.

Fecal impaction is very common and is also called bowel obstruction. It is more likely to happen to sick, elderly individuals who are on bedrest or do not move around to often.


The most common symptoms are:

  • intense urge to have a bowel movement
  • inability to have a bowel movement
  • rectal pain
  • abdominal cramping
  • nausea

Call 911 immediately if you have trouble breathing, a fast or irregular heartbeat, or are dizzy or confused.


There are many different causes of fecal impaction.

Some of the most common causes are:

  • Laxatives
    • If a person takes laxatives too often, their body will become dependent upon laxatives and will not ‘know’ how to have a regular bowel movement
  • Opioid drug use
    • A side effect of some opioid drugs is to slow digestion. Prolonged use of opioid drugs will cause stool to build up and become inpacted
  • inadequate consumption of fiber
  • inadequate consumption of fluids
  • pain relieving medications
  • antidepressant medication
  • antacids containing aluminum
  • excessive laxative use
  • bed rest
  • hemorrhoids
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • heart disease

Treatment options?

Yes. Fecal Impaction can be removed manually by a doctor. The impaction will not go away without treatment and can cause death if not removed. Medications can be used to prevent reoccurrences. In rare cases, surgery may be required to remove the impaction and/or part of the bowel. Other ways to prevent fecal impaction from reoccurring are:

  • drink plenty of water
  • eat a diet with lots of fiber
  • don’t use laxatives on a regular basis
  • avoid prolonged bed rest
  • avoid long term use of medications that cause fecal impaction (antidepressants, opioids, and excessive use of pain relievers)
  • exercise on a regular basis