Constipation in the acutely hospitalized older patients

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2010 May-Jun;50(3):277-81. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2009.04.007. Epub 2009 May 28.


The aim of this work was to establish the factors that determine the onset of constipation in acutely hospitalized older patients with a view to contributing towards an evidence-based identification of which patients warrant early, specific preventive measures. To evade the problem posed by the definition of constipation, we have considered parameters that are part of the daily routine in the hospital ward, such as the prescription of laxatives, also paying attention to how the co-operative older person subjectively interpret this condition. One thirds of the 192 hospitalized older patients needed a laxative at least once every 3 days. Multivariate analysis identified the use of laxatives at home as the only risk factor for objective constipation while in hospital (odds ratio (OR)=3.0). A significant risk of being dissatisfied with their bowel emptying emerged among patients who were bedridden for more than 2 weeks (OR=6.0), and in those who experienced cerebrovascular events (OR=3.1). The use of laxatives at home and awareness that satisfaction with bowel movements drops in patients obliged to stay in bed for lengthy periods of time and in those who have suffered cerebrovascular damage, should provide the grounds for a screening program to establish rational guidelines on bowel movement therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bed Rest / adverse effects
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Constipation / prevention & control*
  • Enema
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Laxatives / therapeutic use
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / complications


  • Laxatives