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The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of chronic constipation on children's quality of life.From October 2002 to November 2003, 224 children (140 male, 84 female, aged 10.6 ± 2.9 years) and 224 parents were evaluated by a health related quality of life tool during initial outpatient consultation. Children with constipation (n = 80) were compared with controls with inflammatory bowel disease (n = 42), controls with gastroesophageal reflux disease (n = 56), and with healthy children (n = 46).Children with constipation had lower quality of life scores than did those with inflammatory bowel disease (70 versus 84; P < 0.05), gastroesophageal reflux disease (70 versus 80; P < 0.05), and healthy children (70 versus 88; P < 0.05). Children with constipation reported lower physical scores than did inflammatory bowel disease patients (75 versus 85; P < 0.02), gastroesophageal reflux disease patients (75 versus 85; P < 0.05), or healthy children (75 versus 87; P < 0.05). Parents of children with constipation reported lower scores than did their children (61 versus 70; P < 0.05). Children with constipation had longer duration of symptoms than did the controls with inflammatory bowel disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (43.8 months versus 14.2 months; P < 0.001). Prolonged duration of symptoms for children with constipation correlated with lower parent-reported scores (P < 0.002).At initial evaluation, children with constipation have a lower quality of life than do children with inflammatory bowel disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Self-reported lower scores may be a reflection of impaired physical ability. Parental perceptions of low quality of life are probably impacted by the duration of their child's symptoms and by family members with similar complaints. Practitioners should be aware of the high level of parental concern and the relatively low self-reported and parent-reported quality of life in children with chronic constipation as they plan therapy.