Skip to Content
Know what to ask with our GIST Doctor Discussion Guide

Fecal Impaction


Fecal impaction is a buildup of hardened bowel movements in your rectum that you cannot pass. Your bowel movements may form one large mass or several smaller masses.



You may need any of the following:

  • Laxatives are drinks or drink mixtures that help loosen your bowel movement blockage so you can pass it with ease.
  • Mineral oils are lubricants for your bowels that help soften your bowel movements so they pass smoothly. These may be used if your healthcare provider could not completely remove the blockage.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. Healthy high-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and beans. Ask if you need to be on a special diet and how much fiber you should eat each day.
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water each day. Water will help keep your bowel movements soft and help you pass them with less pain. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Try to pass a bowel movement as soon as you get the urge. This will help prevent more constipation.
  • Exercise regularly. This will help keep your bowels working well and may help you pass bowel movements more often.
  • Keep a diary of your bowel movement schedule. Write down the date and time of each bowel movement. Also write down if you had trouble passing it. This will help you know if you are passing bowel movements as you should.

Prevent another fecal impaction:

  • Set up a regular toileting schedule at the same time every day. Try to pass a bowel movement when you first wake up, or half an hour after you eat. This may help you control your bowel movements and help you know when they will happen.
  • Take fiber supplements daily as directed. Fiber supplements will help you have a regular bowel movement schedule.
  • Use enemas, laxatives, or constipation medicines as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how often to take medicine when you begin to feel constipated.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are not able to pass a bowel movement, even after treatment, or you pass fewer than 3 bowel movements in a week.
  • You feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea that will not stop.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have swelling in your abdomen.
  • You have bloody bowel movements.
  • You bleed from your rectum.
  • You have severe pain.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.