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National Health Observances

Colonic Inertia

Colonic Inertia

Colonic Inertia (also known as slow-transit constipation) is a motility disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) and results in the abnormal passage of stool.    It is a rare condition in which the colon ceases to function normally.

In colonic inertia, stool may remain stored in portions of the colon and not progress adequately to the part of the colon (rectosigmoid) responsible for the propulsion and transfer of stool out of the body – the processes involved in defecation.

Colonic inertia is characterized by severe, unremitting constipation, abdominal distention, and abdominal pain.  Individuals with colonic inertia often do not pass a stool for 7–10 days at a time and sometimes longer.

Sometimes colonic inertia is accompanied by abnormalities in motility of the upper intestine including delayed emptying of the stomach (gastroparesis) and small intestinal pseudo-obstruction (a disorder that causes symptoms of blockage, but no actual blockage).

Colonic inertia differs from regular constipation in that the latter patients have normal colonic transit times.

Colonic Inertia Symptoms

It has been determined that the normal frequency of stool passage in the United States is 3 or more bowel movements per week.

Patients with colonic inertia have a long delay in passage of stool.

Symptoms can include:

  • Severe, unremitting constipation
  • Diarrhea (most often called overflow diarrhea due to constipation)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea and or vomiting
  • Excessive gas