Background: Constipation is a common clinical problem. Lactulose and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) are both commonly used osmotic laxatives that have been shown to be effective and safe treatments for chronic constipation. However, there is no definitive data as to which provides the best treatment.
Objectives: To identify and review all relevant data in order to determine whether Lactulose or Polyethylene Glycol is more effective at treating chronic constipation and faecal impaction.
Search strategy: We searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL databases, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the use of lactulose and polyethylene glycol in the management of faecal impaction and chronic constipation.
Selection criteria: Studies were included if they were randomised controlled trials which compared lactulose with polyethylene glycol in the management of chronic constipation.
Data collection and analysis: Data on study methods, participants, interventions used and outcomes measured was extracted from each study. Data was entered into the Cochrane Review Manager software (RevMan 5.0) and analysed using Cochrane MetaView.
Main results: In the present meta-analysis, we considered for the first time all ten randomised controlled trials so far performed. The findings of our work indicate that Polyethylene glycol is better than lactulose in outcomes of stool frequency per week, form of stool, relief of abdominal pain and the need for additional products. On subgroup analysis, this is seen in both adults and children, except for relief of abdominal pain.
Authors' conclusions: Polyethylene Glycol should be used in preference to Lactulose in the treatment of Chronic Constipation.