Abnormal Perception of Urge to Defecate: An Important Pathophysiological Mechanism in Women With Chronic Constipation

Paul F. Vollebregt, Lukasz Wiklendt, Rebecca E. Burgell, Pam Chaichanavichkij, Phil G. Dinning, Charles H. Knowles, S. Mark Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: Although the association of absent or attenuated "call to stool" with constipation is well-recognized, no studies have systematically evaluated the perception of urge to defecate in a well-defined cohort of patients with chronic constipation (CC). METHODS: A prospective study of 43 healthy adult women and 140 consecutive adult women attending a tertiary center for investigation of CC. All participants completed a 5-day viscerosensory questionnaire, and all women with CC also underwent anorectal physiologic investigations. Normal urge perception and abnormal urge perception were defined using a Naive Bayes model trained in healthy women (95% having normal urge). RESULTS: In total, 181 toilet visits in healthy women and 595 in women with CC were analyzed. Abnormal urge perception occurred in 70 (50.0%) women with CC. In this group, the urge to defecate was more often experienced as abdominal sensation (69.3% vs 41.4%; P < 0.0001), and the viscerosensory referral area was 81% larger (median pixels anterior: 1,849 vs 1,022; P < 0.0001) compared to women with CC and normal urge perception. Abnormal (vs normal) urge in women with CC was associated with more severe constipation (Cleveland Clinic constipation score: 19 vs 15 P < 0.0001), irritable bowel syndrome (45.7% vs 22.9% P < 0.0001), and a functional evacuation disorder on defecography (31.3% vs 14.3% P = 0.023). A distinct pattern of abnormal urge was found in women with CC and rectal hyposensitivity. DISCUSSION: Abnormal urge perception was observed in 50% of women with CC and was frequently described as abdominal sensation, supporting the concept that sensory dysfunction makes an important contribution to the pathophysiology of constipation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1136
Number of pages12
JournalThe American journal of gastroenterology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Cite this