More opioids, more constipation? Evaluation of longitudinal total oral opioid consumption and self-reported constipation in patients with cancer.

Author(s): Roeland EJ,  Sera CJ,  Ma JD

Journal: Support Care Cancer

Date: 2020 Apr

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): NCORP

PubMed ID: 31332514

PMC ID: not available

Abstract: PURPOSE: Opioid-induced constipation (OIC) is a distressing physical symptom for patients with cancer taking opioids. Total opioid consumption may contribute to developing worsening OIC-related symptoms. We completed a retrospective analysis examining the association of total daily opioid consumption on self-reported constipation in patients with cancer. METHODS: In over 5 clinic visits, we collected self-reported constipation scores and 24-h oral morphine equivalents (OME). We examined the association between OME and the presence of constipation (i.e., score > 3) and the relationship of OME between patients with or without constipation. RESULTS: Of 297 patients with cancer, we observed 57.8% with constipation and 42.4% without constipation at the first clinic visit. Age was similar in both groups (54.2 ± 14.5 vs. 56.4 ± 14.8 years [mean ± SD]) and the majority of patients were women (63.7% vs. 61.1%). The most common cancer type in patients with constipation was non-colorectal gastrointestinal (n = 25, 14.6%), while in patients without constipation was colorectal gastrointestinal (n = 25; 19.8%). Across visits, we observed weak or no association between OME and self-reported constipation (r = 0.01-0.27). At the first visit, higher mean OME was seen in patients who self-reported constipation (133.4 vs 76; p < 0.05). Age, sex, metastatic disease, and stimulant laxative use were not associated with constipation. CONCLUSIONS: We observed weak to no association between OME and constipation in patients with cancer. These results suggest a lack of a clear association between total opioid consumption and self-reported constipation.