Chronic constipation is a highly prevalent disorder that affects approximately 15% of the US population. Chronic constipation refers to patients who have had symptoms for more than 6 months. In clinical practice, chronic constipation is often used interchangeably with the term functional constipation. This is best defined using the Rome III criteria, which involves an evaluation of stool frequency in addition to symptoms of straining, feelings of incomplete evacuation, and the need to use manual maneuvers to assist with stool evacuation. Symptoms can be burdensome, leading to a reduction in patients' quality of life. As a national healthcare issue, chronic constipation is also important because it imposes a significant economic impact on the healthcare system. A number of treatment options are currently available, both over-the-counter and by prescription, although not all patients respond to these therapies. This review will focus on new medical treatment options for the management of chronic constipation, and the safety and efficacy of these agents will be reviewed. In addition, the efficacy of new diagnostic tests to evaluate colonic motility and anorectal function are described.
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