Chronic constipation in the elderly

Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2009 Sep;38(3):463-80. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2009.06.001.


Chronic constipation is a common problem in the elderly, with a variety of causes, including pelvic floor dysfunction, medication effects, and numerous age-specific conditions. A stepwise diagnostic and therapeutic approach to patients with chronic constipation based on historical and physical examination features is recommended. Prudent use of fiber supplements and laxative agents may be helpful for many patients. Based on their capabilities, patients with pelvic floor dysfunction should be considered for pelvic floor rehabilitation (biofeedback), although efficacy in the elderly is uncertain. Clinical awareness and focused testing to identify the physiologic abnormalities underlying constipation, while being mindful of situations unique to the elderly, facilitate management, and improve patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Constipation / epidemiology
  • Constipation / physiopathology*
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Enema
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology
  • Humans
  • Laxatives / therapeutic use
  • Medical History Taking
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology
  • Physical Examination
  • Suppositories


  • Laxatives
  • Suppositories