Stimulant laxatives for constipation and soiling in children

Constipation is a common childhood disorder traditionally treated with a combination of medical and behavioural approaches. There is insufficient evidence on the use and effectiveness of stimulant laxatives for the treatment of childhood constipation. More research is required.

Authors' conclusions: 

The need exists to establish a secure footing for treatment decisions and adequately sized trials are required to provide comparative data on commonly used drugs.

Read the full abstract...

Constipation is extremely common in childhood and may lead to overflow soiling/encopresis. Standard treatment of the more severe case is to empty the bowels of impacted faeces by the use of oral or rectal laxatives and then maintain regular bowel movements by the continuation of osmotic and stimulant laxatives.


The objective of the review was to determine the effect of stimulant laxative treatment in children with chronic constipation who may also suffer from soiling / encopresis.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane database of randomised controlled trials was searched. Additional citations were sought by hand searching of paediatric journals and from contact with known professionals in the field.

Selection criteria: 

All identified randomised controlled trials (RCTs) which compare the administering of stimulant laxatives to children with either placebo or alternative treatment.

Data collection and analysis: 

No trials were found that met the selection criteria.

Main results: 

No trials were found that adequately met the selection criteria.