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Release: Oct. 2, 2001

NOTE TO EDITORS: This release was originally distributed May 3, 2001. Participants are still needed for the study.

UI researchers invite adults to take part in chronic constipation study

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- People with chronic constipation are invited to participate in a University of Iowa study of the effectiveness of biofeedback therapy to treat the condition. The study also will investigate quality of life and psychosocial function related to constipation problems and treatment.

Eligible participants must be 18 to 75 years old and have at least two of the following symptoms with 25 percent of their bowel movements over a three-month period: stool frequency of two or fewer times a week; hard stools; excessive straining; feeling of incomplete evacuation; feeling of blockage; or need for digital maneuvers to defecate. People taking stable doses of antidepressants are eligible for the study. Women who are pregnant and people who have irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative and Crohn's colitis are not eligible to participate.

Prospective participants will be asked to make one or two visits to the UI Hospitals and Clinics for an initial assessment. Selected participants will then be enrolled into one of three treatments groups: standard (three visits over three months), biofeedback (six visits over three months) or relaxation (six visits over three months). Some people will then have the option to continue with the study for an additional nine months. Compensation will be provided.

The biofeedback technique that will be used was pioneered in large part at the UI. The technique involves making people more aware of unconscious or involuntary bodily functions involved in defecation and includes the use of a probe as well as visual and verbal feedback techniques so that individuals may relearn the normal process of having a bowel movement.

Constipation affects more than 4 million Americans, predominantly women and the elderly. However, the condition is not well understood, and most treatments depend on the use of laxatives and/or changes in diet and exercise. Fifty percent of people with chronic constipation exhibit dyssynergic defecation, the inability to properly expel stools.

For more information, contact Joan Kempf, UI study coordinator, at (319) 384-9756 or by e-mail at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.