A global survey of surgeons’ preferences and practice with regard to laxative use after elective colorectal surgery

Purpose: The role of laxatives after elective colorectal surgery is unclear, resulting in heterogenous guidelines and variability in clinical practice. This study aimed to gauge surgeons’ preferences and practice with regard to laxative use following elective colorectal surgery.

Methods: A short one-minute anonymous web-based questionnaire designed in English and Chinese (Mandarin) using the Research Electronic Data Capture application (REDCap) was distributed to member surgeons of every identifiable international colorectal specialist society via email communication, physical newsletters and social media channels. Frequency of laxative use after elective colorectal surgery, type of laxative used, and, if not used, the reasons for not using laxatives were collected.

Results: A total of 852 surgeons, representing 28 surgical societies completed the survey: 80% were colorectal surgeons and 20% were general surgeons with colorectal interest. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents routinely prescribed laxatives after colorectal surgery. There was wide variation in the type of laxatives used, with magnesium-based laxatives (42%), macrogol (Movicol, 36%) and lactulose (Duphalac, 22%) being the most common. Geographical location was correlated with choice of laxative. Those not routinely using laxatives stated the reasons as being no evidence for benefit (48%), potential of adverse events (24%), more than one reason (21%) and other (7%). The majority (93%) non-users would consider using laxatives if better evidence was available.

Conclusion: Most surgeons do not routinely prescribe laxatives after elective colorectal surgery due to lack of evidence. Amongst those surgeons who do use them, there is wide variability in the type of laxatives used.