Risk factors associated with lower defecation frequency in hospitalized older adults: a case control study

BMC Geriatr. 2015 Apr 10:15:44. doi: 10.1186/s12877-015-0041-0.


Background: Constipation is highly prevalent in older adults and may be associated with greater frequency of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). We investigated the prevalence of lower defecation frequency (DF) and risk factors (including AECOPD) associated with lower DF among hospitalized elderly patients.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective case-control study in a community hospital of Southeast Ohio. Adults aged 65 years or older admitted during 2004 and 2006 were reviewed (N = 1288). Patients were excluded (N = 212) if their length of stay was less than 3 days, discharge diagnosis of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, death or ventilator- dependent respiratory failure during hospitalization. Lower DF was defined as either an average DF of 0.33 or less per day or no defecation in the first three days of hospitalization; cases (N = 406) and controls (N = 670) were included for the final analysis.

Results: Approximately 38% had lower DF in this patient population. Fecal soiling/smearing of at least two episodes was documented in 7% of the patients. With the adjustment of confounders, AECOPD (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] =1.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] =1.01-2.13) and muscle relaxant use (AOR =2.94; 95% CI =1.29-6.69) were significantly associated with lower DF. Supplementation of potassium and antibiotic use prior to hospitalization was associated with lower risk of lower DF.

Conclusions: Approximately 38% of hospitalized older adults had lower DF. AECOPD and use of muscle relaxant were significantly associated with lower DF; while supplementation of potassium and antibiotic use were protective for lower DF risk after adjusting for other variables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Defecation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents