Objectives: To evaluate the impact of laxatives on a wide range of symptoms in patients with symptomatic hemorrhoids.
Methods: We searched using the following sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and CENTRAL, BIOSIS, AMED, Papers First and Proceedings; study authors, industry, and experts in the field. We included all published and unpublished parallel group randomized controlled trials comparing any type of laxative to placebo or no therapy in patients with symptomatic hemorrhoids. Two reviewers independently screened studies for inclusion, retrieved all potentially relevant studies, and extracted data on study population, intervention, prespecified outcomes, and methodology.
Results: Seven trials randomized 378 patients to fiber or a nonfiber control. Studies were of moderate quality for most outcomes. Meta-analyses using random effects models suggested that fiber has an apparent beneficial effect. The risk of not improving/persisting symptoms decreased by 47% in the fiber group (RR = 0.53, 95% CI 0.38-0.73) and the risk of bleeding by 50% (RR = 0.50, 95% CI 0.28-0.89). Studies with multiple follow-ups, usually at 6 wk and at 3 months, showed consistent results over time. Results are also compatible with large treatment effects in prolapse, pain, and itching, but even in the pooled analyses confidence intervals were wide and compatible with no effect (RR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.37-1.67; RR = 0.33, 95% CI 0.07-1.65; and RR = 0.71, 95% CI 0.24-2.10, respectively). One study suggested a decrease in recurrence. Results showed a nonsignificant trend toward increases in mild adverse events in the fiber group (RR = 6.0, 95% CI 0.57-64.8).
Conclusions: Trials of fiber show a consistent beneficial effect for symptoms and bleeding in the treatment of symptomatic hemorrhoids.