Management of constipation in palliative care patients undergoing opioid therapy: is polyethylene glycol an option?

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2005 Sep-Oct;22(5):375-81. doi: 10.1177/104990910502200511.


This study assessed the efficacy of laxative use for treatment of constipation in patients receiving opioid therapy, with special attention to polyethylene glycol 3350/electrolyte solution (PEG-ES). Computerized data from 206 patients were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Subgroups were analyzed using confirmatory statistics. Constipation occurred in 42.7 percent of patients. Laxatives were administered to 74.3 percent of these patients using a standardized step scheme, with good results in 78.4 percent. As a therapy for constipation, the combined administration of PEG-ES, sodium picosulphate, and liquid paraffin proved most effective, although statistical analysis yielded no significance. Early use of PEG-ES using a step scheme holds promise for treatment of opioid-related constipation in palliative care patients, although further investigation is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Cathartics / administration & dosage*
  • Constipation / chemically induced
  • Constipation / drug therapy*
  • Electrolytes / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / administration & dosage*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Cathartics
  • Electrolytes
  • Polyethylene Glycols