Managing constipation in primary care
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Managing constipation in primary care

Gary Mitchell Doctoral student/registered nurse, Queen’s University Belfast

While bowel problems are generally not life-threatening, says Gary Mitchell, following best practice guidelines will enable the practitioner to identify possible underlying causes and manage the patient’s problem appropriately

The management of constipation can be challenging because it is often considered self-correcting and not usually life-threatening. While these assumptions can be correct, constipation has the potential to be detrimental to the wellbeing of people affected, and long-term mismanagement of the condition can mask potential underlying causes. While nursing professionals in primary care are often aware of the available treatment options for constipation, there is limited evidence available to assist them in carrying out an appropriate clinical assessment on which to inform treatment choices. This paper will illuminate best clinical practice in primary care for the assessment of constipation, using history taking from the patient and inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation of the abdominal area.

Primary Health Care. 24, 5, 18-22. doi: 10.7748/phc.24.5.18.e890


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 11 February 2014

Accepted: 05 March 2014