Frequency, cost of inpatient constipation cases rising in US

The increased frequency and rising costs associated with constipation diagnoses represent an escalating burden on the health care system, according to new data.

Researchers analyzed the National Inpatient Sample Database (1997-2010), focusing on cases for which constipation was the principal discharge diagnosis. Their findings showed a 128.6% increase in discharges with a principal diagnosis of constipation, from 21,190 patients to 48,450 (P<.001), although average length of hospital stay increased from 3.0 to 3.1 days (P=.004).

The average hospital charges for these patients increased 239.3% ($8,869 in 1997, adjusted for inflation, to $17,518 in 2010).

“This substantial increase in cost is likely driven by the number of diagnostic tests being performed to evaluate colon function, or to exclude complications related to constipation and neoplasia,” the researchers wrote. “Encouraging the management of these diagnostic procedures in an outpatient setting for mild cases of constipation could be one way of reducing the cost ... by eliminating the hospital cost per inpatient day.”

The findings also showed that the elderly (patients aged 65 to 84 years) made up the largest portion of constipation discharges (38% in 1997; 29% in 2010), but young patients (aged 1 to 17 years) had the highest frequency of constipation per 10,000 discharges (16.59 in 1997; 50.58 in 2010).

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.