Childhood constipation carries over into adulthood one-fourth of the time


One-fourth of children with functional constipation will continue to have symptoms into adulthood.

One-fourth of children with functional constipation will continue to have symptoms in adulthood, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics.

Researchers studied 401 children with functional constipation from a Dutch tertiary hospital. These children (age range, 5 -18 years) all had participated in previous clinical studies on childhood constipation and had received laxative treatment for at least 2 months before study entry.

Functional constipation was defined as the presence of 2 or more of these conditions: defecation frequency less than 3 times per week; 2 or more episodes of fecal incontinence per week; passage of very large amounts of stool at least once every 7 to 30 days; or a palpable abdominal or rectal mass on physical examination.

Poor clinical outcomes in adulthood were associated with older age at onset, longer delay between onset and first visit to clinic, and low defecation frequency. Relapses in adulthood occurred more frequently in women than in men.

Researchers advise that if a child has constipation, parents should not wait to seek help from a doctor and that doctors should not wait to give laxative treatment to these children.

Bongers MEJ, van Wijk MP, Reitsma JB, Benninga MA. Long-term prognosis for childhood constipation: clinical outcomes in adulthood. Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):e156-e162.

Note: The news article "Concerns About Antibiotics for Acne and IBS" (September 2010 issue) should have referred to irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) instead. Corrected versions are available on our Web site ( and our interactive digital edition (

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