Miles, C.L., Fellowes, D., Goodman, M.L., & Wilkinson, S. (2006). Laxatives for the management of constipation in palliative care patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4, CD003448.doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003448.pub2
To determine the effectiveness of laxative administration for constipation in patients receiving palliative care; to differentiate among laxatives being used regarding efficacy for constipation management.
Two hundred twelve studies were initially retrieved. After removal of duplicates and studies that did not meet inclusion criteria, three studies were finally included. Study quality was assessed using the Jadad scale and additional criteria identified including issues of accrual, homogeneity, attrition, interventions, quality of outcome measurement, and clarity of results presentation. The review provided extensive detail on quality assessment findings and rationale for study exclusion. Included studies used senna, lactulose, danthron combined with poloxamer, misrakasneham, and magnesium hydroxide combined with liquid paraffin.
The final sample of three studies involved a total of 162 patients, with study samples ranging from 36 to 75.
The treatment of constipation in palliative care patients is not based on sufficient data from RCTs. Recommendations for laxatives may be based as much on cost as on efficacy. Polyethylene glycols are widely used in palliative care despite lack of evidence. The authors did not note evidence in this area in other patient populations that may be applicable.
This review and included studies did not provide sufficient information to draw conclusions about the laxatives in terms of weighing effectiveness versus adverse side effects.
This area could benefit from research to compare effects and cost effectiveness. Some findings suggested effect and preference for lactulose combinations, whereas lactulose tends to be much more expensive than alternatives.