Severe idiopathic constipation affects predominantly young women. We have evaluated the results of colectomy in 44 women with a normal diameter colon and with a median bowel frequency of once per four weeks. The operations were done in one hospital over a 15 year period. After operation 22 patients had normal bowel frequency, 17 diarrhoea (greater than three bowel actions/day), and five persistent or recurrent constipation (interval between bowel actions at least three days). Many patients continued to experience abdominal pain (98% preoperatively v 71% postoperatively); straining and laxative use were still common after surgery. Ten patients needed psychiatric treatment for severe psychological disorders. The preoperative abnormalities of paradoxical contraction of the pelvic floor during straining and impaired rectal evacuation of a water filled balloon did not correlate with the outcome.
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