Identifying Obstructive Defecation Syndrome

What is Obstructive Defecation Syndrome (ODS)

ODS is a condition of chronic constipation affecting thousands of people in the U.S. Mostly women suffer from this syndrome. If you experience a combination of severe symptoms you need to see your physician.

What symptoms should I look out for?

  • Not passing the entire bowel movement
  • Prolonged straining
  • Routine use of laxatives
  • Routine use of enemas

Women who have had two or more children or were injured during childbirth are very likely to suffer from ODS. These cause damage to the fascia which is tissue that separates the vaginal wall and anus.

How do I receive a proper diagnosis?

To have successful treatment of ODS, it is imperative to have a proper diagnosis. Your primary care physician, gastroenterologist and Houston colorectal surgeon can evaluate you. Some exams need to be done by a physician specializing in pelvic care. Diagnosing a blocked bowel and fecal impaction can be complex. Be sure that your physician knows your complete medical history and that you are open about all of your symptoms. Here are some tests and exams that your colon surgeon may order:

  • Colonoscopy: this procedure is where the doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera into the rectum and views the entire colon. A colonoscopy can reveal narrowing, obstructions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Colonic marker studies:  this procedure is when a patient swallows small radiopaque markers. These radiopaque markers are able to be viewed on x-rays. Over seven days the patient is then x-rayed to track the markers and see how quickly they travel through the small intestine and colon.
  • Electromyography (EMG) this test measures the strength of the pelvic floor muscles as well as the muscles around the anus. This determines the level of function of these muscles.
  • Anal manometry tests how well the anal muscles are working
  • Dynamic defecography this test is where the patient sits on a special toilet and is x-rayed while straining. These x-rays take images of a paste mixture as it passes through the bowel allowing the physician to see how well the bowel is functioning.

Obstructive defecation syndrome plagues millions of women, but it is not something to which they must resign themselves.  With the proper diagnosis and treatment plan, they can put that issue behind them, many times without surgery.  If you are suffering from the symptoms above, consult your Houston colon surgeon and discuss how to get you on the road to recovery.


The colorectal surgeons at Colorectal Surgical Associates are experts in the fields of colorectal surgery, including in the treatment of obstructive defecation syndrome in Houston.  With their knowledge and expertise, they treat patients with a broad spectrum of difficulties, including colon cancer in Houston.