Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) in children is generally believed to be functional. In practice, many children with RAP become pain-free with laxative therapy. The aims of the study were to establish the role of (occult) constipation in RAP and to investigate whether patients diagnosed with (occult) constipation could be identified by history and physical examination. During 2 years, all patients (age 4-16 years, secondary referral) fulfilling Apley criteria of RAP were included. After exclusion of gastrointestinal infections and food intolerance, laxatives were advised when pain persisted. (Occult) constipation was defined as 'abdominal pain disappearing with laxative treatment and not reappearing within a 6 month follow up period'; 'occult constipation' was diagnosed in patients who did not fulfil the Rome criteria of constipation. Two hundred children (87 M; median age 8.8 years) were evaluated. (Occult) constipation was found in 92 patients (46 %). Of these, 18 had considerable relief of pain when treated for a somatic cause but experienced complete relief only after laxative measures; they were considered to have two diagnoses. Using multivariate analysis, a simple model was developed with cystitis in past history, early satiety and flatulence as predictors for (occult) constipation. The risk of (occult) constipation ranged from 18/58 if no predictor was present to 4/4 if all three were present. Conclusion: Laxatives played a pivotal role in the recovery of patients with RAP. We developed a simple model to identify patients at risk of having (occult) constipation.

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European Journal of Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics

Gijsbers, C.F.M, Kneepkens, C.M.F, Vergouwe, Y, & Büller, H.A. (2014). Occult constipation: Faecal retention as a cause of recurrent abdominal pain in children. European Journal of Pediatrics, 173(6), 781–785. doi:10.1007/s00431-013-2257-3