The prevalence of constipation at admission and after 1 week of palliative care: a multi-center study

Sebastiano Mercadante, Francesco Masedu, Marco Maltoni, Daniela De Giovanni, Luigi Montanari, Cristina Pittureri, Raffaella Bertè, Laura Ursini, Franco Marinangeli, Federica Aielli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: To assess the prevalence and intensity of constipation in advanced-cancer patients referred to palliative care, and to assess changes after 1 week of specialist palliative care. Methods: This was a prospective multi-center study in advanced patients for a period of 1 year. At admission (T0), age, gender, primary tumor, concomitant diseases, Karnofsky status, Palliative prognostic score (PaP), Edmonton Symptom Assessment scale (ESAS), Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS), and bowel function index (BFI) were collected. In BFI, high values represent severe constipation. The use of medication was also recorded, as well as possible causes of constipation. The same parameters were recorded 1 week after admission for palliative care (T7). Results: A total of 246 patients were screened for constipation. The mean BFI at T0 was 42.4 (SD = 26.92). One hundred and sixty-three patients (66.3%) had a BFI >28. The mean BFI at T7 was 35.7 (SD = 28.8), with a significant decrease from T0 to T7 (p = .000). A significant decrease of BFI in patients with a BFI >28 was reported (p = .000). In patients with a BFI ≤28 there was a significant worsening of constipation (p = .000). In patients with a BFI >28 at T0 there was a significant increase in the use of laxatives at T7 in comparison with patients having a BFI ≤28 (p = .002). In patients with a BFI ≤28 at T0, who had a significant worsening of BFI (Δ > 12), the use of laxatives was significantly lower in comparison to patients who had a BFI >28 (p = .000). In the multivariate analysis, dehydration and the use of benzodiazepines were independently associated with higher BFI scores. Conclusion: Constipation is present in approximately two-thirds of patients, and is principally associated with dehydration and the use of benzodiazepines. Patients with normal bowel function at initial assessment may see a worsening in their condition a week later due to lack of prevention or subsequent under-treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 16 2017


  • advanced cancer
  • bowel function index
  • Constipation
  • opioids
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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