Background: Many patients with chronic opioid-induced constipation (OIC) seek treatment to relieve their symptoms. A symptom screener may be useful in identifying symptomatic OIC patients.
Aim: The aims of this study were to assess patient understanding of Stool Symptom Screener content and to evaluate how patients described their constipation experience, to better understand the relationship between constipation symptoms and patterns of laxative use.
Methods: Adult OIC patients were recruited through five clinical sites across the USA. Patients were classified as either frequent or non-frequent laxative users. Patients participated in a semi-structured interview to assess their understanding of a Stool Symptom Screener and to discuss their constipation symptoms and laxative use experience. Interview transcripts were reviewed using content analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the sample.
Results: Sixty-six OIC patients participated: 39 frequent laxative users (mean age 53.3 years) and 27 non-frequent laxative users (mean age 55.5 years). Both patient groups described high levels of symptom burden on the Stool Symptom Screener as well as anecdotally. Both patient groups generally understood the Stool Symptom Screener items and felt the questions were relevant to their symptom experience. Most (95.5%) reported that they could remember their constipation symptoms "easily" over the previous 2 weeks. No qualitative differences were found between frequent and non-frequent laxative users in how they described their OIC symptom experience.
Conclusion: OIC patients understood this Stool Symptom Screener, and its content was relevant to this highly symptomatic patient sample. Pain and bloating may be considered as additional symptoms for future versions of the screener. An emerging conceptual model of the OIC experience, laxative use, and symptoms is presented.