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A decrease in a person's normal frequency of defecation, accompanied by difficult or incomplete passage of stool and/or passage of excessively hard, dry stool.

Defining Characteristics:

Change in bowel pattern; bright red blood with stool; presence of soft paste-like stool in rectum; distended abdomen; dark, black, or tarry stool; increased abdominal pressure; percussed abdominal dullness; pain with defecation; decreased volume of stool; straining with defecation; decreased frequency; dry, hard, formed stool; palpable rectal mass; feeling of rectal fullness or pressure; abdominal pain; unable to pass stool; anorexia; headache; change in abdominal growing (borborygmi); indigestion; atypical presentation in older adults (e.g., change in mental status, urinary incontinence, unexplained falls, elevated body temperature); severe flatus; generalized fatigue; hypoactive or hyperactive bowel sounds; palpable abdominal mass; abdominal tenderness with or without palpable muscle resistance; nausea and/or vomiting; oozing liquid stool

Related Factors:

Functional Recent environmental changes; habitual denial or ignoring of urge to defecate; insufficient physical activity; irregular defecation habits; inadequate toileting, abdominal muscle weakness.

Psychological Depression; emotional stress; mental confusion

Pharmacological Antilipemic agents; laxative overdose; calcium carbonate; aluminum-containing antacids; nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents; opiates; anticholinergics; diuretics; iron salts; phenothiazides; sedatives; sympathomimetics; bismuth salts; antidepressants; calcium channel blockers.

Mechanical Rectal abscess or ulcer; pregnancy; rectal anal fissures; tumors; megacolon (Hirschsprung's disease); electrolyte imbalance; rectal prolapse; prostate enlargement; neurological impairment; rectal anal stricture; rectocele; postsurgical obstruction; hemorrhoids; obesity.

Physiological Poor eating habits; decreased motility of gastrointestinal tract; inadequate dentition or oral hygiene; insufficient fiber intake; insufficient fluid intake; change in usual foods and eating patterns; dehydration.

  • Bowel Elimination
  • Hydration
Client Outcomes
  • Maintains passage of soft, formed stool every 1 to 3 days without straining
  • States relief from discomfort of constipation
  • Identifies measures that prevent or treat constipation

  • Constipation/Impaction Management