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Clin Geriatr Med. 1988 Aug;4(3):571-88.

Constipation and fecal impaction in the long-term care patient.

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Department of Medicine, University of Chicago Medical Center, Illinois.


Constipation is a significant problem in the long-term care patient. There is a high prevalence of both primary and secondary causes of constipation in this population. Common primary causes include deficient dietary fiber, deficient fluid intake, and immobility. Common secondary causes include carcinoma, constipating medications, and neurologic and endocrine diseases. Moreover, complications of constipation such as fecal impaction, fecal incontinence, stercoral ulceration, and obstruction can be catastrophic in the debilitated elderly patient. Many cases of constipation can be treated by supplementing dietary fiber and fluid intake, with attention to nonmedical forms of intervention. In some patients, therapies such as bulk-forming agents, emollients, and periodic enemas may be necessary. In addition, there are some newer therapies available. Chronic stimulant laxative therapy should be reserved for patients with certain conditions that warrant their use.

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