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Tests for constipation in children

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Your GP or hospital specialist may suggest tests to see if your child has constipation and to work out what might be causing it. [16] [26] Your child may not need any of these tests or at most they will need one or two of them.

X-ray of your child's abdomen

X-rays are pictures of the insides of your body. An X-ray of your child's abdomen shows the bowels and how much stool is in them. [16]

Test for blood in your child's stools

For this test, you'll need to collect a stool sample and send it for laboratory analysis. Doctors call this test a faecal occult blood test ('occult' here means hidden). Blood in the stools often comes from a tear in your child's anus from pushing out large stools. Rarely, the blood can come from a more serious problem, like bleeding in the bowel, ulcers, or polyps.

MRI scan of your child's spine

An MRI scan can help show problems with your child's spinal cord, such as a tumour. Spinal cord problems can keep the nerves that control bowel movements from working properly or keep your child from feeling the urge to 'poo'.

A test of your child's bowel muscles

This test measures how well the muscles and nerves in your child's rectum and anus work. Doctors call it anorectal manometry. It isn't used very often. Your child might have this test to check if they have Hirschsprung's disease or to try to find out what's happening when your child tries to pass a stool.

During the test, a thin tube (called a catheter) is put into your child's rectum. A small balloon on the end is slowly filled up. This makes the muscles in your child's rectum and anus squeeze. Signals from the muscles are picked up by the catheter, and the strength of the squeeze is recorded by a machine. Your child might be asked to push and relax, as they do when passing a stool. [20] This test can show how full your child's rectum has to be before their nerves realise it's time to empty it.



The anus, which is at the end of the rectum, is where stools leave your body when you go to the toilet. Part of the anus is a muscle that helps you hold in the stool until you are on the toilet.

Hirschsprung's disease

Hirschsprung's disease is a disease you're born with. The nerves in the last part of your colon and in your rectum don't develop. The end of your colon stays very narrow and won't relax and tighten to let stools pass through. So the stools build up above that area and stretch out the rest of your colon.This disease is also called congenital aganglionic megacolon. It can be treated with surgery.

MRI scan

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine uses a magnetic field to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.


A polyp is a growth that is found inside your body.


The rectum is the last 15 to 20 centimetres (six to eight inches) of the large intestine, ending with the anus (where you empty your bowels from).


An ulcer is an open sore. Ulcers can happen in many parts of your body, such as in your stomach, and the skin of your legs, mouth, or genitals.


X-rays are pictures taken of the inside of your body. They are made by passing small amounts of radiation through your body and then onto film.

For more terms related to Constipation in children


For references related to Constipation in children click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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