Chronic constipation in the elderly patient: Updates in evaluation and management

Amir Mari, Mahmud Mahamid, Hana Amara, Fadi Abu Baker, Afif Yaccob

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Chronic constipation (CC) is a common disorder in the elderly population globally and is associated with comorbidities and negative implications on the quality of life. Constipation prevalence varies in different studies, primarily owing to the nonuniformity of the diagnostic criteria. However, 15%-30% of individuals aged >60 years are diagnosed with CC. Primary care physicians are the main healthcare providers that manage constipation in elderly patients in parallel with increased population aging and increased prevalence of constipation. Physical inactivity, polypharmacy, chronic medical conditions, rectal hyposensitivity, and defecatory disorders all play a role in the pathogenesis of CC in elderly patients. Detailed anamnesis, particularly history related to chronic medication use, with digital rectal examination may assist in identifying constipation causes. Additionally, blood tests and colonoscopy may identify organic causes of CC. Physiologic tests (i.e., anorectal manometry, colonic transit time with radiopaque markers, and defecography) can evaluate the physiologic function of the colon, rectum, and anus. However, generally, there are several causes of constipation in older patients, and an individualized approach is recommended. Treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation is empiric, based on the stepwise approach. Lifestyle advice, adjustment of chronic medications, and prescription of laxatives are the first steps of management. Several laxatives are available, and the treatment is evolving in the last decade. Biofeedback is an effective therapy especially for defecatory disorders. This review aimed to summarize the most updated knowledge for primary care physicians in the approach and management of CC in elderly patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalKorean Journal of Family Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Korean Journal of Family Medicine.


  • Approach
  • Chronic constipation
  • Elderly
  • Management
  • Primary care physicians
  • Treatment


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