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A useful definition of constipation is ‘the passage of hard stools less frequently than the patient's own normal pattern’ (BNF) The Bristol stool form scale is a means of assessing intestinal transit time.

  • Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation: will be passed infrequently
  • Types 3 and 4 indicate ‘normal’ ideal stools; should be passed once every 1-3 days, depending on individual normal bowel emptying patterns.
  • Type 5 to 7 suggest diarrhoea or urgency; passed very frequently.

Bristol Stool Chart – download the Bladder and Bowel Foundation

Practice Nurse featured article 

Constipation in adults Dr Knut Schroeder 

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