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J Emerg Med. 2015 Jun;48(6):667-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.01.035. Epub 2015 Apr 4.

Safety and efficacy of milk and molasses enemas in the emergency department.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, California.



Increased scrutiny is occurring from regulatory agencies about the use of nonsterile enema preparations in the emergency department (ED) for constipation. This includes the "off-label" use of milk and molasses (M&M) enemas, as there are no reported data in the medical literature to determine safety and efficacy.


To evaluate the success and complication rates of administering M&M enemas in the ED.


This was a structured retrospective study at two EDs over 8 years. Primary success was defined as the patient having a bowel movement. Secondary measures of success included improved pain score by 2 or more points or lowering of a heart rate initially over 100 beats/min by 20 or more beats/min. Complications included: hemodynamic compromise, increased pain, electrolyte disturbances, bacteremia, bowel perforation, rectal pain or bleeding, cardiac dysrhythmias, anaphylaxis, electrolyte disturbances, dizziness or syncope, or hospital admission for issues surrounding enema.


There were 2013 enemas given, of which 261 were M&M enemas; 214 were given alone. Success rates defined only as bowel evacuation for M&M enemas alone were 87.9% (188/214) and, when used after other treatment failures, were 82.4% (28/34) successful. Five additional patients improved with the secondary measures (90.2% success). There were 8/261 complications (3.1%), of which four had an increased heart rate, two had decreased blood pressure, one had an increased pain score, and one subsequently developed a fever.


M&M enemas have a low complication rate when used in the ED.


constipation; enema; nausea/vomiting; resource utilization

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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