Bristol Stool Chart – Modern Tweak
What is the Bristol Stool Chart?
The Bristol Stool Chart, also known as the Bristol Stool Scale, is a medical aid that categorizes human feces (poop) into seven types. It’s used as a visual aid for the doctor-patient relationship, as well as a tool to determine the success of bowel related treatments.
Why is it named the Bristol Stool Chart?
The chart was created by the late Dr. Ken Heaton while he was faculty at the University of Bristol in Bristol, United Kingdom. The University of Bristol is a very prestigious research university and ranked within the top 30 universities in the world.
How is the Bristol Stool Chart Useful?
By classifying the appearance of fecal matter upon its exit can give us a strong correlation to how long that fecal matter was in our GI tract, which also relates to GI health.
In its most practical form, this chart is used in doctor offices to break down communication barriers when discussing the uncomfortable nature of bowel health.
Patients can point out what kind of bowel movements they are having. Having a visual aid that breaks down different types of bowel movements into seven easy categories makes it much easier and more comfortable for a patient to identify and discuss the type of bowel movements they are experiencing.
The Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology was the debut appearance of the Bristol Stool Chart, being published back in 1997. Although it’s validity has been challenged, it continues to be a valuable medical tool to assess the success of medical treatments for a range of diseases related to the bowels.
The article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology (1997) explained the utility of fecal matter classification aids like the Bristol Stool Chart.
Stool form scales are a simple method of assessing intestinal transit rate but are not widely used in clinical practice or research, possibly because of the lack of evidence that they are responsive to changes in transit time. We set out to assess the responsiveness of the Bristolstool form scale to change in transit time.
The study was conducted with 66 research volunteers to evaluate whole-gut transit time and whether the Bristol Stool Chart was an accurate classification system. The conclusion was summed up as follows:
This study has shown that a stool form scale can be used to monitor change in intestinal function. Such scales have utility in both clinical practice and research.
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 1
“Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 2
“Sausage-shaped, but lumpy”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 3
“Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 4
“Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 5
” Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 6
” Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool”
Bristol Stool Chart – Poop Type 7
” Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid”
As suggested above in the chart:
- Type 1–2 indicate constipation
- Type 3–4 are ideal stools as they are easier to pass, and
- Type 5–7 may indicate diarrhea and urgency
For an excellent article on the Bristol Stool Chart and interpreting a deeper meaning behind these 7 categories of stool, I highly recommend you check out this article at GutSense.org.
In Memory of Dr. Ken Heaton
Unfortunately, Dr. Heaton passed away this July (2103). From the remarks left by his colleagues at the University of Bristol it appears he was a great man to be missed.
Ken was wonderful teacher and mentor, leading many students and postgraduates through their formative years and examinations. He supervised the Final MB clinical exam for many years, usually rounding off proceedings with a garden party hosted with his wife, Sue.
As a researcher Ken is famed for his work on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), creating the first validated tool for diagnosing the condition; it underpinned the later Rome Criteria. Later he defined the Bristol Stool Form Score, which is now used internationally by clinicians, nurses and researchers.
Click here for the full obituary of Dr. Kenneth Heaton from the University of Bristol.