If a provider suspects that constipation may be the result of an obstruction or blockage in the colon or rectum, they may order one or more diagnostic tests.
Colonoscopy and Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy use a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end to view the inside of the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy provides a view of the entire colon and rectum, and a flexible sigmoidoscopy provides a view of the rectum and the lower part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon. Both procedures allow the provider to identify obstructions and take tissue samples.
Lower GI Series
Lower gastrointestinal, or GI, series is also called barium enema. Barium is inserted through the anus into the rectum and large intestine, and a series of x-rays are taken.
Defecography is a video x-ray of the area around the anus and rectum. The rectum is filled with a soft paste that shows up on x-rays and feels like stool. As the patient strains to have a bowel movement next to an x-ray machine, the provider can look for problems.
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses radio waves and magnets to produce detailed images of internal organs and soft tissues. In some cases, a special dye called contrast medium is injected to make structures and problems show up more clearly.
Computed tomography, or CT, scans use a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images of internal organs. A contrast medium may be used to make structures and problems show up more clearly.
Treatment for bowel and rectal obstructions generally depends on the cause. When obstruction is caused by inflammation due to an inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, medications may be enough to reduce inflammation and open up narrowed areas. In other cases, surgery to remove the diseased, narrowed, blocked, or dysfunctional portion of the bowel may be necessary.