IJN Koppen et al. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: October 2017 – Volume 65 – Issue 4 – p 361–363
According to international guidelines, polyethylene glycol (PEG) is the laxative of first choice in the treatment of functional constipation in children, both for disimpaction and for maintenance treatment. PEG acts as an osmotic laxative and its efficacy is dose dependent. PEG is highly effective, has a good safety profile, and is well tolerated by children. Only minor adverse events have been reported. Overall the use of PEG in children has been reported to be safe, although in patients predisposed to water and electrolyte imbalances monitoring of serum electrolytes should be considered.
Because this topic is of great importance to the families that are seen by pediatric gastroenterologists (and pediatricians), I wanted to review this brief article which describes the efficacy and safety of polyethylene glycol (aka miralax).
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is the most widely used laxative in children and adults
- It works by interacting “with water molecules by forming hydrogen bonds, in a ratio of 100 water molecules per 1 PEG molecule, which leads to an additional increase in colonic water content.” It is minimally absorbed.
- Studies have demonstrated that PEG is better or noninferior to all of the following: lactulose, milk of magnesia, mineral oil, and flixweed (a medicinal herb)
- Only minor adverse events have been reported in studies. In randomized, placebo-controlled trials, adverse events “did not occur more frequently in patients receiving PEG compared to patients receiving placebo.”
- The main safety issue has been when it has been administered via nasogastric administration; improper placement can lead to severe pulmonary complications. In addition, PEG should be used “cautiously in children with swallowing problems…because of risk of aspiration.”
- The authors assert that there has never been reports of physical or psychological dependence. Weaning from PEG is to prevent relapse of constipation.
- There is no evidence to support loss of efficacy.
- The phenomenon of “lazy bowel syndrome” in which there is worsened colonic function has not been described due to PEG; though, patients with underlying motility problems have had these problems misattributed to PEG use.
- Despite anecdotal reports of tremors, tics, and obsessive-compulsive behavior in children taking PEG, there has been no evidence of a causal relationship. “These events …are still under investigation, but the FDA has decided that no action is necessary.” The authors note that the co-occurrence of neuro-behavioral problems and constipation is well-recognized in children with and without laxative use.
Clinical Pearl: Stimulant Laxatives After Repaired Anorectal Malformations:
- “In children with constipation after repaired anorectal malformations, …stimulant laxatives (eg. senna) should be the laxative of choice.” (J Pediatr Surg 2017; 52: 84-8)
My take (borrowed from the authors): “PEG has rapidly become the treatment of first choice for children with functional constipation.”
Related blog posts:
- Here we go again…Mirialax Safety
- Miralax -More Scrutiny, Research Study
- Updated Pediatric Expert Constipation Guidelines
- Miralax Safety | gutsandgrowth
- Data Supporting Miralax | gutsandgrowth