Fecal impaction is a serious complication of constipation in which the stool hardens and can no longer be eliminated with normal bowel movements. Surgery may be required if aggressive measures are not taken to try and eliminate the stool.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Advanced First Aid Certification
- Evacuation Plan
- Wilderness First Aid Classes
- Bran Cereal
- Dried Fruits
- High-fiber Cereals
- Milk Of Magnesia
- First Aid Kits
- Glycerin Suppository
- Latex Gloves
- Mineral Oils
- Oil-retention Enema
- Stool Softeners
- Evacuation Insurance
Look for any of the following signs and symptoms of fecal impaction: absence of bowel movements, a sensation of fullness in the rectum, distention in the abdomen or abdominal discomfort, loss of urinary control, a firm mass in the lower left abdomen, watery stools or discharge from the rectum.
Drink copious amounts of water and avoid starch and meats.
Eat plenty of fruits, leafy vegetables, bran and high-fiber cereals. Dried fruits such as apricots, dates and prunes are a great way to get fiber while backpacking.
Administer a stool softener, laxative, or milk of magnesia.
Administer a glycerin suppository to encourage passage of the stool and to prevent the hardened stool from damaging the rectal lining. If a glycerin suppository is unavailable in the field you may have to improvise an enema using mineral oil.
Digitally remove the stool with the following steps if none of the above measures successfully evacuates the stool.
Put on a latex glove and administer an enema of glycerin or mineral oil. Lubricate the latex glove and insert the index finger into the rectum and gently locate the mass of stool.
Break up the mass of stool piece by piece with gentle prodding, taking care not to damage to the rectal lining. Attempt to eliminate the pieces on a piece-by-piece basis using a glycerin suppository.
Evacuate the person if the impacted stool can't be located with a gloved finger, if digital probing fails to eliminate the stool, if a fever is present, or if the rectal lining is at all damaged in the removal process.
Tips and warnings
- Digital removal may be performed on oneself, but will require the supportive assistance of another person.
- Fecal impaction is a potentially dangerous situation requiring aggressive intervention in order to eliminate the feces. Prevention is key - catching fecal impaction too late can require surgery.
- Evacuate immediately if a person has not defecated in four to five days or has a distended abdomen. They will require the help of a trained medical professional to remove the stool.
- The passage of a hard stool may be quite painful and measures should be taken to protect the rectal lining from damage.
- Never leave a person who is attempting to eliminate a fecal impaction alone in the attempt. This procedure may be quite painful, and a person may need assistance if the rectal lining is damaged or he or she loses consciousness from the pain.
- This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.