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Anorectal Motility Study

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Anorectal motility study is a test used to measure how well the muscles and nerves in the rectum and anus are working. This test may also be called anorectal manometry. The anus is where bowel movements (stool) pass out of the body. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine.

This test will help the doctor determine the cause of your child’s constipation and/or fecal incontinence (leakage of stool). The study also helps test for a condition called Hirschprung’s disease. In Hirschprung’s disease, nerve cells are missing from part of the intestines, and areas without these nerves cannot push stool through. This causes a blockage in the colon.

Also, this study measures the pressures at 2 sphincters that are involved in the passage of bowel movements: the internal sphincter, which we have no voluntary control over, and the external sphincter, which can control. If the child can cooperate, the test can help the child to understand how to relax the external sphincter muscle while pushing with the abdominal muscles, which is the coordination of muscles needed to pass a bowel movement.

Preparing for the Test

  • The nurse will give you specific directions for your child’s bowel preparation..
  • Your child may eat as usual before this test.
  • Give your child his/her usual medications.
  • Bring a favorite blanket, toy, or music to comfort your child.

What happens during the test?

  • Your child’s rectum may be examined by the doctor, but usually a rectal exam is not needed.
  • A very thin tube with a non-latex balloon at the tip of the tube will be gently inserted into the rectum.
  • Once the tube is inserted, the doctor will put air in the balloon, and some measurements/pressures will be checked.
  • If your child can cooperate, he/she will be asked to squeeze, relax, and push so the pressures in the rectum and anus can be measured. Your child be able to see color changes on a computer screen when they squeeze and relax muscles. Also, your child can control a video game on the computer using the abdominal muscles and sphincter muscles. This is called “biofeedback” which helps the child to learn to coordinate the muscles needed to pass a bowel movement.
  • Your child’s sensation of the need to pass gas and the need to have a bowel movement will also be tested. The doctor will put different amounts of air in the balloon at different parts of the test. The doctor also tests if your child can sustain a squeeze for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • At the end of the test, the air will be let out of the balloon and the balloon will gently be removed.
  • This is not a painful test, but your child may have a little discomfort when the thin tube with the balloon is inserted. We can help your child relax with breathing exercises and distraction using games on a tablet computer.
  • This test takes about 30 minutes, but you should allow 2 hours for the entire visit for this procedure.

What happens after the test?

  • Your child’s doctor will talk with you and your child’s GI doctor about the test results.
  • Your child can have his/her normal diet.
  • Your child can continue his/her normal activities.
  • Sometimes medication changes are recommended after the test.
  • Call your child’s doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 10/2017

(757) 668-7000