Constipation in palliative care Prevalence, definitions, symptom distress and risk-factors

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Background and aims: Constipation for patients in palliative care is common and described with variations in prevalence. Side -effects from opioid- treatment, is considered to be one of the main factors leading to constipation. The overall aim of the thesis was to study constipation among patients admitted to specialized palliative care- settings in Sweden. The specific aims of the thesis were 1) To describe and explore the prevalence, definition and symptom distress of constipation by applying different definitions of constipation, in patients admitted to specialized palliative care settings in Sweden. 2) To identify factors related to constipation in patients in specialized palliative care and comparing these factors for patients with different types of constipation to patients without constipation.Methods: A literature- search were conducted where prevalence of- and factors related to constipation was explored and included in a questionnaire, developed for this thesis. Data was collected in a cross- sectional design with a response rate of 50% and analysed with logistic regression.Results: A total of 485 patients from 38 specialized palliative care- units in Sweden participated. Prevalence of constipation for patients in specialized palliative care varied between 7- 43 % depending on definition used. Two different constipation- groups were identified: Medical constipation- group 23% (MCG) and Perceived constipation- group 35% (PCG). Three sub- groups was also identified: patients with i) only ? 3 defecations/week, 7%, ii) only perception of being constipated, 19%, and iii) patients with both ? 3 defecations/ week and perception of being constipated,16%. Several factors were found to be related to constipation as hospitalisation, absence of laxative- treatment, haemorrhoids, poor appetite, hard stool form and opioids.Conclusions: Prevalence of constipation may differ depending on definitions used. Distress from constipation and other factors related to constipation, than opioids, needs to be incorporated into the clinical constipation- assessment. Validated constipation assessment tool needs to be developed.