Managing constipation in the elderly: An evidence-based approach

Yi Chen Lin, Miaofen Yen, Ching Huey Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constipation is a common problem afflicting the elderly. When elderly patients complain of constipation to their healthcare providers, they are typically prescribed laxatives rather than given a clinical examination to explore the specific causes. This approach not only does not resolve the long-term problem of constipation, but may also lead to further complications (e.g., constipation alternating with diarrhea, abdominal distention, poor appetite, and ileus). Effective management of constipation in the elderly should in many cases be tailored to the symptoms and conditions of individual patients rather than simply applying evidence-based treatment. There is a lack of consistency amongst specialists on how best to deal with the problem of constipation. The aim of this article was to explore evidencebased management approaches to constipation in the elderly. A definition of constipation is given and relevant causes are first given. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment approaches are then introduced with regard to effective approaches to conducting physical examinations, assessing patient medical history, and performing laboratory tests. In addition, this article also developed a constipation protocol as a reference tool in the clinical management of constipation in the elderly. The authors hope results can help reduce the problem of constipation in the elderly population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-99
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Aug

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nursing(all)


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