Rodrigo de Azevedo, Flávio Freitas, Elaine Ferreira, Luciano Pontes de Azevedo, Flávia Machado Critical Care 2015, 19:329 (16 September 2015)

Introduction: Constipation is a common problem in intensive care units. We assessed the efficacy and safety of laxative therapy aiming to promote daily defecation in reducing organ dysfunction in mechanically ventilated patients.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized, controlled, nonblinded phase II clinical trial at two general intensive care units. Patients expected to remain ventilated for over 3 days were randomly assigned to daily defecation or control groups. The intervention group received lactulose and enemas to produce 1–2 defecations per day. In the control group, absence of defecation was tolerated up to 5 days. Primary outcome was the change in Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score between the date of enrollment and intensive care unit discharge, death or day 14.

Results: We included 88 patients. Patients in the treatment group had a higher number of defecations per day (1.3 ± 0.42 versus 0.7 ± 0.56, p < 0.0001) and lower percentage of days without defecation (33.1 ± 15.7 % versus 62.3 ±24.5 %, p < 0.0001). Patients in the intervention group had a greater reduction in SOFA score (–4.0 (–6.0 to 0) versus –1.0 (–4.0 to 1.0), p = 0.036) with no difference in mortality rates or in survival time. Adverse events were more frequent in the treatment group (4.5 (3.0–8.0) versus 3.0 (1.0–5.7), p = 0.016), including more days with diarrhea (2.0 (1.0–4.0) versus 1.0 (0–2.0) days, p < 0.0001). Serious adverse events were rare and did not significantly differ between groups.

Conclusions: Laxative therapy improved daily defecation in ventilated patients and was associated with a greater reduction in SOFA score.

Weblink here