Background: Leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy commonly develop constipation, which is difficult to treat using routine methods.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether sweet potato can alleviate constipation in leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Methods: Leukemia patients receiving their first chemotherapy were randomized to an intervention group (n = 57) or a control group (n = 63). The control and intervention groups were managed by using routine nursing methods and routine methods plus dietary sweet potato consumption (eating sweet potato 200 g/d, from admission to discharge), respectively. Related data regarding patients' defecation were collected on the second and fifth days after chemotherapy initiation, which included rates of constipation, frequency and duration of purgative usage, constipation status assessed by Rome III criteria, and scores on defecation satisfaction.
Results: On the second day, the rate of constipation and the rate of having first defecation within 24 hours after chemotherapy initiation were significantly improved in the intervention group, but the difference of the defecation satisfaction and "almost no loose stools without purgative use" in Rome III criteria were not significantly changed. On the fifth day, except for "the sensation of anorectal obstruction" and "requirement of manual assistance" in Rome III criteria, other items regarding defecation were significantly improved.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that sweet potato had a positive impact on the prevention of constipation and the defecation satisfaction in leukemia patients receiving their first chemotherapy.
Implications for practice: As sweet potato is inexpensive, abundant, tasty, and easy to prepare, it can be widely used in leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy.