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Childhood Constipation Carries a Big Price Tag

MONDAY Dec. 8, 2008 -- Each year in the United States, treatment of childhood constipation costs about $4 billion, about the same as for asthma and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

They analyzed 2003-04 data on children younger than 18 who were diagnosed with constipation or prescribed a laxative, and found that children with constipation had $3.9 billion more in health-care costs per year than those without constipation. The findings are scheduled for publication early next year in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Even with the high prevalence of constipation in children and its associated costs, the condition hasn't received much attention in public health campaigns, the researchers noted.

"Despite being considered by many a relatively benign condition, childhood constipation has been shown to be associated with a significantly decreased quality of life," study author Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo, chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Nationwide Children's, said in a hospital news release. "The day-to-day struggle caused by constipation can often be emotionally devastating, and can also have an impact on the overall health and well-being of affected children and their families."

The researchers hoped their study findings might increase awareness of childhood constipation, to lead to earlier treatment of the condition.

"In many cases, constipation in children can be prevented or corrected through dietary and behavioral changes," Dr. Hayat Mousa, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children's, said in the news release.

"Parents should talk to their children about their bathroom habits and make sure they are having a bowel movement at least every other day. For mild cases of constipation, prune or apple juice, high-fiber cereal, or over-the-counter softeners or laxatives made for children may help. If the problem persists, parents should seek the advice of a medical professional," Mousa said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and constipation.

Posted: December 2008


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