Opioid-induced bowel dysfunction: suggestions from a multidisciplinary expert Board

Support Care Cancer. 2019 Nov;27(11):4083-4090. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-04688-2. Epub 2019 Feb 18.


Constipation, one of the adverse effects of opioid therapy with a major impact on quality of life, is still an unmet need for cancer patients, particularly those with an advanced and progressive disease, and for non-cancer patients chronically treated with opioids. The awareness of this condition is poor among healthcare providers, despite the recent publication of guidelines and consensus conferences. An early multidisciplinary approach of opioid-induced bowel dysfunction (OIBD), based on available therapies of proven effectiveness, could support clinicians in managing this condition, thus increasing patients' adherence to pain therapy. Several Italian experts involved in the management of patients suffering from pain (anaesthesia pain therapy, oncology, haematology, palliative care, gastroenterology) joined in a Board in order to draw up an expert opinion on OIBD. The most frequent and still unsolved issues in this field were examined, including a more comprehensive definition of OIBD, the benefits of early intervention to prevent its occurrence and the most appropriate use of peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonists (PAMORAs). The use of the recently introduced PAMORA naloxegol was analysed, in light of the current literature. The Board proposed a solution for each open issue in the form of recommendations, integrated with the contribution of representatives from different disciplines and often accompanied by procedural algorithms immediately usable and applicable in daily clinical practice. Safety and quality of life of the patient suffering from pain and from the adverse effects of pain therapies have been the mainstays of this expert opinion, in cooperation with general practitioners and caregivers.

Keywords: Constipation; Mu receptor; Multidisciplinary; Opioids; Pain.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Constipation / chemically induced*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*


  • Analgesics, Opioid