Exploring the relationship between the frequency of documented bowel movements and prescribed laxatives in hospitalized palliative care patients

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Journal Article
American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 2011, 28 (4), pp. 258 - 263
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Retrospective analysis of 211 admissions to a palliative care unit was undertaken to explore the relationship between prescribed laxatives and the frequency of documentation of bowel movements. Bivariate analysis flailed to identify relationships between laxatives and the frequency of bowel movements. Relationships were identified between less frequent bowel movements and type and duration of illness phase. Regression analysis identified 2 variables strongly predictive of the frequency with which bowel movements were documented. People in longer illness phases were more likely to have regular bowel movements (Z = 3.02, P = .003). The second significant result was that, even accounting for the short duration of the terminal phase, people who were dying were 13 times less likely to have any bowel movements documented than those in the stable phase (OR = 13.2, 95%CI = 2.0-89.2). The lack of relationship between laxatives and documentation of bowel movements suggests alternative approaches to understanding and managing the symptom of constipation in palliative care are necessary. © The Author(s) 2011.
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