Constipation is the Most Frequent Cause of Chronic Abdominal Pain in Children

Vera Loening-Baucke1, *, Alexander Swidsinski2
1 Division of General Pediatrics, University of Iowa, USA
2 Charité Hospital at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany

© 2008 Loening-Baucke and Swidsinski

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA; Tel: 319-356-1832; Fax: 319-356-4855; E-mail:


The aims of the study were to identify the frequency and causes of chronic abdominal pain in a large academic primary care population at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. We evaluated retrospectively the complete charts of children ≥4 years old, seen for at least one health maintenance visit in the primary paediatric clinic during a 6-month period, for complaints and causes of chronic abdominal pain. Of 493 boys and 469 girls with a mean age of 9.1 years, 12.7% had been evaluated for chronic abdominal pain. Constipation as cause of abdominal pain occurred in 83%, childhood functional abdominal pain in 8%, colic in 5%, gastroesophageal reflux in 2% and infection in 2%. The life-time prevalence rate for chronic abdominal pain was 13.3%; was due to functional causes in 13.1% and due to organic diseases in 0.2%. Functional constipation was the most frequent cause of chronic abdominal pain in a large primary care paediatric population.

Keywords: Retrospective study, functional abdominal pain, functional constipation, children.