Chronic constipation accounts for 3% to 5% of pediatric primary care outpatient visits. The most severely affected of this group develop a flaccid colon insensitive to distention, and encopresis. Laxatives and lubricants have been the standard therapeutic agents during the bowel decompression phase of encopretic therapy. Fiber has been the cornerstone of maintenance programs. Each of these agents is accompanied by considerable anxiety in the lay literature. This study evaluates the safety of combined high-fiber, laxative, and lubricant therapy on bowel movement frequency, fecal soiling, and nutritional status over a 6-month period. Blood chemistry values, dietary fiber intake, defecation pattern, and a psychological profile were evaluated before and after the 6-month study. Biochemical and anthropometric indicators of nutritional status were not adversely affected by the therapy. Seventy-five percent of the children were able to remain free of soiling and the remaining 4 of 16 had soiling episodes reduced to a frequency of less than once a week. This study confirms that children with encopresis can respond to a combined program of increased fiber intake, laxatives, and mineral oil following a complete bowel cleanout, without experiencing deleterious effects.
- Received May 11, 1992.
- Accepted July 20, 1992.
- Copyright © 1993 by the American Academy of Pediatrics