Epidemiology and management of chronic constipation in elderly patients

Maria Vazquez Roque, Ernest P. Bouras

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Constipation is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder, with prevalence in the general population of approximately 20%. In the elderly population the incidence of constipation is higher compared to the younger population, with elderly females suffering more often from severe constipation. Treatment options for chronic constipation (CC) include stool softeners, fiber supplements, osmotic and stimulant laxatives, and the secretagogues lubiprostone and linaclotide. Understanding the underlying etiology of CC is necessary to determine the most appropriate therapeutic option. Therefore, it is important to distinguish from pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), slow and normal transit constipation. Evaluation of a patient with CC includes basic blood work, rectal examination, and appropriate testing to evaluate for PFD and slow transit constipation when indicated. Pelvic floor rehabilitation or biofeedback is the treatment of choice for PFD, and its efficacy has been proven in clinical trials. Surgery is rarely indicated in CC and can only be considered in cases of slow transit constipation when PFD has been properly excluded. Other treatment options such as sacral nerve stimulation seem to be helpful in patients with urinary dysfunction. Botulinum toxin injection for PFD cannot be recommended at this time with the available evidence. CC in the elderly is common, and it has a significant impact on quality of life and the use of health care resources. In the elderly, it is imperative to identify the etiology of CC, and treatment should be based on the patient’s overall clinical status and capabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)919-930
Number of pages12
JournalClinical interventions in aging
StatePublished - Jun 2 2015


  • Constipation
  • Elderly
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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