Objectives: To assess the efficacy of polyethylene glycol 3350 plus electrolytes (PEG + E; Movicol) as oral monotherapy in the treatment of faecal impaction in children, and to compare PEG + E with lactulose as maintenance therapy in a randomised trial.
Patients and methods: An initial open-label study of PEG + E in the inpatient treatment of faecal impaction (phase 1), followed by a randomised, double-blind comparison between PEG + E and lactulose for maintenance treatment of constipation over a 3-month period (phase 2) in children aged 2 to 11 years with a clinical diagnosis of faecal impaction.
Results: Disimpaction on PEG + E was achieved in 58 (92%) of 63 of children (89% of 2-4 year olds and 94% of 5-11 year olds) without additional interventions. A maximum dose of 4 sachets (for 2-4 year olds) or 6 sachets (for 5-11 year olds) was required; median time to disimpaction was 6 days (range, 3-7 days). Seven children (23%) reimpacted whilst taking lactulose, whereas no children reimpacted while taking PEG + E (P = 0.011). The total incidence rate of adverse events seen was higher in the lactulose group (83%) than in the PEG + E group (64%).
Conclusions: PEG + E is safe and highly effective in the management of childhood constipation. It allows a single orally administered laxative to be used for disimpaction without recourse to invasive interventions. It is significantly more effective than lactulose as maintenance therapy, both in efficacy in treating constipation and efficacy in preventing the recurrence of faecal impaction.