Constipation is a common problem that can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions or health issues. To accurately diagnose the cause of constipation, doctors may use a variety of tests, such as colorectal transit studies, radiopaque markers, physical exams, and blood tests. These tests can help identify structural or functional causes of constipation and confirm a clinical suspicion or identify the cause of treatment resistant bowel symptoms. Colorectal transit studies are bowel function tests used to measure how well stools move through the colon. Radiopaque markers are X-rays that track radioactive markers as they pass through the digestive system.
A complete physical exam, including a detailed neurological exam, can help recognize systemic diseases that can cause constipation. The abdomen should be carefully examined for the presence of feces, especially in the left quadrant. If your healthcare provider is concerned about bowel obstruction, he or she may order X-rays of your abdomen. If hypothyroidism is suspected as a possible cause of constipation, a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test may be requested. Routine blood tests or endoscopy are not usually recommended in constipated patients without warning elements. The balloon ejection test and anorectal manometry are two tests that can confirm evacuation disorder.
A defecography is a type of X-ray done to rule out the causes of outlet dysfunction (constipation). A colonoscopy may be recommended if a person is about to undergo surgery to treat constipation or if they are 50 years or older and have not yet undergone a standard screening colonoscopy for colorectal cancer. If constipation is due to an underlying medical condition or medication, laxatives may need to be taken for much longer, possibly many months or even years. Detailed physiological tests should be performed in patients whose constipation is resistant to laxatives and dietary changes, and in those with a suspected bowel movement disorder. By using these tests, doctors can accurately diagnose the underlying causes of constipation and provide appropriate treatment. If you are experiencing constipation that does not respond to simple measures such as fiber supplements and over-the-counter laxatives, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider about further testing.