New hope for constipated patients

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A specific medication may restore bowel function more quickly than conventional treatment in critical care patients, researchers have found.

Opiods, such as Vicodin or Percocet, are commonly given to reduce chronic pain, but they often also make patients constipated.

London and Chicago researchers found that giving methylnaltrexone (MNTX) can offer relief. Out of 88 nonsurgical critical care patients in the ICU during a 10-week period, the drug quickly resulted in laxation when given to seven patients who had opiod-induced constipation.

"We observed a clinically significant improvement in feeding and decreased gastric residual volumes in our patients with MNTX treatment," said Parind B. Patel, MBBS, FRCA, of Critical Care Medicine at Hammersmith Hospital. "Although our study was too small to demonstrate statistical significance, the improvement in enteral feeding suggests that further study is merited.”

The study was published in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.