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ABSTRACT: In addition to pain, patients who are approaching the end of life commonly have other symptoms. Unless contraindicated, prophylaxis with a gastrointestinal motility stimulant laxative and a stool softener is appropriate in terminally ill patients who are being given opioids. Patients with low performance status are not candidates for surgical treatment of bowel obstruction. Cramping abdominal pain associated with mechanical bowel obstruction often can be managed with morphine (titrating the dosage for pain) and octreotide. Delirium is common at the end of life and is frequently caused by a combination of medications, dehydration, infections or hypoxia. Haloperidol is the pharmaceutical agent of choice for the management of delirium. Dyspnea, the subjective sensation of uncomfortable breathing, is often treated by titration of an opioid to relieve the symptom; a benzodiazepine is used when anxiety is a component of the breathlessness.
ABSTRACT: Constipation is a common complaint in older adults. Although constipation is not a physiologic consequence of normal aging, decreased mobility and other comorbid medical conditions may contribute to its increased prevalence in older adults. Functional constipation is diagnosed when no secondary causes can be identified, such as a medical condition or a medicine with a side effect profile that includes constipation. Empiric treatment may be tried initially for patients with functional constipation. Management of chronic constipation includes keeping a stool diary to record the nature of the bowel movements, counseling on bowel training, increasing fluid and dietary fiber intake, and increasing physical activity. There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription laxatives available for the treatment of constipation. Fiber and laxatives increase stool frequency and improve symptoms of constipation. If constipation is refractory to medical treatment, further diagnostic evaluation may be warranted to assess for colonic transit time and anorectal dysfunction. Alternative treatment methods such as biofeedback and surgery may be considered for these patients.
Constipation in the Elderly - Article
ABSTRACT: Constipation affects as many as 26 percent of elderly men and 34 percent of elderly women and is a problem that has been related to diminished perception of quality of life. Constipation may be the sign of a serious problem such as a mass lesion, the manifestation of a systemic disorder such as hypothyroidism or a side effect of medications such as narcotic analgesics. The patient with constipation should be questioned about fluid and food intake, medications, supplements and homeopathic remedies. The physical examination may reveal local masses or thrombosed hemorrhoids, which may be contributing to the constipation. Visual inspection of the colon is useful when no obvious cause of constipation can be determined. Treatment should address the underlying abnormality. The chronic use of certain treatments, such as laxatives, should be avoided. First-line therapy should include bowel retraining, increased dietary fiber and fluid intake, and exercise when possible. Laxatives, stool softeners and nonabsorbable solutions may be needed in some patients with chronic constipation.
ABSTRACT: As death approaches, a gradual shift in emphasis from curative and life prolonging therapies toward palliative therapies can relieve significant medical burdens and maintain a patient's dignity and comfort. Pain and dyspnea are treated based on severity, with stepped interventions, primarily opioids. Common adverse effects of opioids, such as constipation, must be treated proactively; other adverse effects, such as nausea and mental status changes, usually dissipate with time. Parenteral methylnaltrexone can be considered for intractable cases of opioid bowel dysfunction. Tumor-related bowel obstruction can be managed with corticosteroids and octreotide. Therapy for nausea and vomiting should be targeted to the underlying cause; low-dose haloperidol is often effective. Delirium should be prevented with normalization of environment or managed medically. Excessive respiratory secretions can be treated with reassurance and, if necessary, drying of secretions to prevent the phenomenon called the "death rattle." There is always something more that can be done for comfort, no matter how dire a situation appears to be. Good management of physical symptoms allows patients and loved ones the space to work out unfinished emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues, and, thereby, the opportunity to find affirmation at life's end.
Childhood Constipation - Clinical Evidence Handbook
Laxatives for Hemorrhoids? - Cochrane for Clinicians