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Idiopathic constipation in children clinical practice guidelines
  1. Siba Prosad Paul,
  2. Samuel Robin Broad,
  3. Christine Spray
  1. Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Siba Prosad Paul, Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol BS2 8BJ, UK; siba.paul{at}

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Information about current guidelines

Constipation in children is a common reason for consulting medical professionals. It has a reported prevalence of 5%–30% in children depending on the criteria used.1 ,2

In 2010, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published clinical practice guidelines on the diagnosis and management of constipation in children.1 The aim of this guideline was to offer ‘best practice advice on the care of children and young people with idiopathic constipation’.1 The subsequent NICE quality standard (2014) consisted of a concise set of prioritised statements to achieve quality improvements in managing children with constipation.2 Also in 2014, the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) jointly published a clinical guideline on the diagnostic evaluation and treatment of functional constipation for children.3 This review encompasses recommendations from both the NICE guidelines and the joint ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN guidelines, with guidance specifically from ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN shown in italics in the text below. Table 1 highlights the main differences between the NICE and joint ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN guidelines.

View this table:
Table 1

Comparison of the guidelines

Previous guideline

In 1999, the NASPGHAN published a medical position paper providing recommendations on paediatric constipation.4 This document served as the basic structure for the recently published joint ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN guidelines3 (box 1).

Box 1


  • NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) (2010) clinical guidelines 99:

  • ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN (European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition/North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition) (2014) guidelines:

  • NICE (2014) quality standard 62:

  • ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence):

Key issues that the guidelines address

Definition of constipation

NICE guidelines have defined constipation as ‘idiopathic’ if it cannot be explained by any anatomical, physiological, radiological or histological abnormalities. The ESPGHAN/NASPGHAN guidelines recommended that the Rome III criteria for the …

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  • Correction notice The paper has been amended since it was published Online First. In the section titled UNRESOLVED CONTROVERSIES in the second bullet point the word “community” was inadvertently retained, this has now been deleted.

  • Contributors All the authors contributed equally towards writing the manuscript. CHS provided expert opinion in addition to editing the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.