Fifteen women with intractable chronic idiopathic constipation dating from adolescence were investigated by anorectal manometry, neurophysiological evaluation of the conus medullaris and external anal sphincter. Comparison was made with 25 asymptomatic female control subjects. Urological disturbances were common amongst the constipated, in five of whom incidental lumbosacral spinal dysraphism was found. No differences in sphincter pressures or the rectosphincteric reflex were demonstrable between the two groups. Rectal defecatory sensation was blunted and the compliance was increased in the constipated group. The latency of the pudendo-anal reflex was significantly prolonged in idiopathic constipation, two women having an absent reflex (greater than 100 ms). Mean motor unit potential duration of the external anal sphincter was not significantly prolonged in the eight constipated women tested. A central neurogenic deficit is postulated in some women with this disorder.
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