Context: The stool softener docusate is widely used in the management of constipation in hospice patients. There is little experimental evidence to support this practice, and no randomized trials have been conducted in the hospice setting.
Objectives: To assess the efficacy of docusate in hospice patients.
Methods: This was a 10-day, prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of docusate and sennosides vs. placebo and sennosides in hospice patients in Edmonton, Alberta. Patients were included if they were age 18 years or older, able to take oral medications, did not have a gastrointestinal stoma, and had a Palliative Performance Scale score of 20% or more. The primary outcome measures were stool frequency, volume, and consistency. Secondary outcomes were patient perceptions of bowel movements (difficulty and completeness of evacuation) and bowel-related interventions.
Results: A total of 74 patients were randomized into the study (35 to the docusate group and 39 to the placebo group). There were neither significant differences between the groups in stool frequency, volume, or consistency, nor in difficulty or completeness of evacuation. On the Bristol Stool Form Scale, more patients in the placebo group had Type 4 (smooth and soft) and Type 5 (soft blobs) stool, whereas in the docusate group, more had Type 3 (sausage like) and Type 6 (mushy) stool (P=0.01).
Conclusion: There was no significant benefit of docusate plus sennosides compared with placebo plus sennosides in managing constipation in hospice patients. Docusate use should be considered on an individual basis.
Copyright © 2013 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.