The Sphincter of O’Beirne—Part 2: Report of a Case of Chronic Constipation with Autonomous Dyssynergia Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Chronic constipation can have one or more of many etiologies, and a diagnosis based on symptoms is not sufficient as a basis for treatment, in particular surgery. AIM: To investigate the cause of chronic constipation in a patient with complete absence of spontaneous bowel movements. METHODS: High-resolution colonic manometry was performed to assess motor functions of the colon, rectum, the sphincter of O'Beirne and the anal sphincters. RESULTS: Normal colonic motor patterns were observed, even at baseline, but a prominent high-pressure zone at the rectosigmoid junction, the sphincter of O'Beirne, was consistently present. In response to high-amplitude propagating pressure waves (HAPWs) that were not consciously perceived, the sphincter and the anal sphincters would not relax and paradoxically contract, identified as autonomous dyssynergia. Rectal bisacodyl evoked marked HAPW activity with complete relaxation of the sphincter of O'Beirne and the anal sphincters, indicating that all neural pathways to generate the coloanal reflex were intact but had low sensitivity to physiological stimuli. A retrograde propagating cyclic motor pattern initiated at the sphincter of O'Beirne, likely contributing to failure of content to move into the rectum. CONCLUSIONS: Chronic constipation without the presence of spontaneous bowel movements can be associated with normal colonic motor patterns but a highly exaggerated pressure at the rectosigmoid junction: the sphincter of O'Beirne, and failure of this sphincter and the anal sphincters to relax associated with propulsive motor patterns. The sphincter of O'Beirne can be an important part of the pathophysiology of chronic constipation.


  • Chen, Jihong
  • Collins, Stephen M
  • Milkova, Natalija
  • Pervez, Maham
  • Nirmalathasan, Sharjana
  • Tan, Wei
  • Hanman, Alicia
  • Huizinga, Jan

publication date

  • October 2021