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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Jul 1;26(1):9-20.

Systematic review: the adverse effects of sodium phosphate enema.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Universitario de La Princesa, Madrid, Spain.



Sodium-phosphate enemas are widely used to treat constipation, and are rarely associated with side effects.


A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify the most common adverse effects of sodium-phosphate enemas and associated risk factors.


A systematic search was conducted in Internet (MEDLINE), and the Cochrane Library, from January 1957 to March 2007.


A total of 761 references were identified initially, and 39 relevant papers were finally selected. The most common therapeutic indications included constipation (63%). Sixty-eight per cent of the patients having adverse effects had associated conditions, the most common being gastrointestinal motility disorders, cardiological diseases and renal failure. Virtually, all side effects were due to water and electrolyte disturbances. Most patients were under 18 years of age (66%) or older than 65 years (25%). A total of 12 deaths were found.


The main side effects caused by sodium phosphate enemas are water and electrolyte disturbances. The main risk factors are extreme age and associated comorbidity.

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