Chronic constipation is a reality for many people ― more often women than men. Fortunately, these symptoms generally respond to dietary fiber supplements or over-the-counter laxatives. But when these symptoms do not respond, tests can determine the cause. Sometimes contents move slowly through the colon, or patients have a rectal disorder related to evacuation of stool. These are called defecatory disorders. Tests guide patients to the best therapy. For example, defecatory disorders respond to pelvic floor biofeedback therapy rather than laxatives. The existing tests measure pressure in the colon and use X-rays of the contents moving in real time to clarify any issues. Researchers say these tests are useful, but they have limitations.
In some patients, these tests provide different answers. To improve on the data provided by these tests, Mayo Clinic researchers combined MRIs and anorectal balloon pressure measurements to examine defecation in 29 women who were not constipated and 26 women who were constipated.
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