Diagnostic disagreement between tests of evacuatory function: a prospective study of 100 constipated patients

S. Palit, N. Thin, C. H. Knowles, P. J. Lunniss, A. E. Bharucha, S. M. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: Evacuatory dysfunction (ED) is a common cause of constipation and may be sub-classified on the basis of specialist tests. Such tests may guide treatment e.g., biofeedback therapy for ‘functional’ defecatory disorders (FDD). However, there is no gold standard, and prior studies have not prospectively and systematically compared all tests that are used to diagnose forms of ED. Methods: One hundred consecutive patients fulfilling Rome III criteria for functional constipation underwent four tests: expulsion of a rectal balloon distended to 50 mL (BE50) or until patients experienced the desire to defecate (BEDDV), evacuation proctography (EP) and anorectal manometry. Yields and agreements between tests for the diagnosis of ED and FDD were assessed. Key Results: Positive diagnostic yields for ED were: BEDDV 18%, BE50 31%, EP 38% and anorectal manometry (ARM) 68%. Agreement was substantial between the two balloon tests (k = 0.66), only fair between proctography and BE50 (k = 0.27), poor between manometry and proctography (k = 0.01), and there was no agreement between the balloon tests and manometry (k = −0.07 for both BE50 and BEDDV). For the diagnosis of FDD, there was only fair agreement between ARM and EP (k = 0.23), ARM ± BE50 and EP (k = 0.18), ARM and EP ± BE50 (k = 0.30) and ARM ± BE50 and EP ± BE50 (k = 0.23). Conclusions & Inferences: There is considerable disagreement between the results of various tests used to diagnose ED and FDD. This highlights the need for a reappraisal of both diagnostic criteria, and what represents the ‘gold standard’ investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1589-1598
Number of pages10
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • anorectal manometry
  • balloon expulsion test
  • chronic constipation
  • proctography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology


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