Pharmacological treatment of constipation in palliative care

aClinic of Palliative Medicine, MediClin Robert Janker Klinik bUniversity Clinic for Palliative Medicine, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University, Bonn cDepartment of Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacoepidemiology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Current opinion in supportive and palliative care (Impact Factor: 1.66). 03/2013; 7(2). DOI: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e32835f1e17
Source: PubMed


Purpose of review:
The prevalence of constipation in palliative care patients varies. There is uncertainty about the choice from varying recommendations for pharmacological management of constipation and a varying clinical practice in palliative care settings. The purpose of the review was to evaluate the current recommendations of therapy guidelines and to determine the effectiveness and safety of laxative administration for the management of constipation in palliative care patients.

Recent findings:
Despite the clinical importance, there are limited data on the efficacy and safety of laxatives in palliative care patients. The social acceptability varies from country to country, but overall, oral laxatives should, where possible, be used in preference. Systemic opioid antagonists, such as naloxone and methylnaltrexone have been studied in few clinical trials. There is a paucity of well designed, prospective, randomized controlled trials with large enough numbers of patients suffering from constipation and treated with pharmacological methods.

There are limited data available on the conventional pharmacological treatment of constipation in palliative care patients due to insufficient randomized controlled trials. However, subcutaneously administered methylnaltrexone was found to be effective in aiding of laxation and well tolerated with limited or transient side effects in palliative care patients.

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