The cause of constipation experienced by palliative care patients is likely to be multifactorial in cause. Despite the majority of palliative care patients citing constipation as a major concern, it has been suggested that assessment and effective management has been poor in relation to other symptoms.
A universal definition of constipation does not seem to exist, as it can be a subjective symptom, varying from one patient to another, which can lead to problems in communication about constipation. Assessing and understanding the individual patient’s view of this symptom are vital to effective management.
Constipation can be characterised by persistent difficulties with defecation: hardness of stools, frequency of stools passed, abdominal fullness, feeling bloated, abdominal pain, straining and feeling of incomplete emptying of rectum.
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