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Palliat Med. 2008 Oct;22(7):796-807. doi: 10.1177/0269216308096908.

The management of constipation in palliative care: clinical practice recommendations.

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School of Nursing and Midwifery, Aras Moyola, The National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

Erratum in

  • Palliat Med. 2009 Jun;23(4):376.


Constipation is one of the most common problems in patients receiving palliative care and can cause extreme suffering and discomfort. The aims of this study are to raise awareness of constipation in palliative care, provide clear, practical guidance on management and encourage further research in the area. A pan-European working group of physicians and nurses with significant experience in the management of constipation in palliative care met to evaluate the published evidence and produce these clinical practice recommendations. Four potentially relevant publications were identified, highlighting a lack of clear, practical guidance on the assessment, diagnosis and management of constipation in palliative care patients. Given the limited data available, our recommendations are based on expert clinical opinion, relevant research findings from other settings and best practice from the countries represented. Palliative care patients are at a high risk of constipation, and while general principles of prevention should be followed, pharmacological treatment is often necessary. The combination of a softener and stimulant laxative is generally recommended, and the choice of laxatives should be made on an individual basis. The current evidence base is poor and further research is required on many aspects of the assessment, diagnosis and management of constipation in palliative care.

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