Open Access Open Badges Research article

Potentially avoidable hospitalisation for constipation in Victoria, Australia in 2010–11

Humaira Ansari1, Zahid Ansari2, John M Hutson134 and Bridget R Southwell13*

Author Affiliations

1 Surgical Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Flemington Road, Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia

2 School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

3 Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia

4 Department of Urology, Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Gastroenterology 2014, 14:125  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-14-125

Published: 11 July 2014



When primary care of constipation fails, the patient may need emergency hospitalisation for disimpaction. This study aimed to provide population-based data on the number of unplanned admissions and the cost to the healthcare system for constipation in Victoria, Australia in financial year 2010–11.


The Victorian Admitted Episodes Dataset was examined to find the number of emergency hospital separations coded as constipation (ICD-10-AM Code K390). An estimate of costs was determined from the number of weighted inlier equivalent separations (WIES) multiplied by the WEIS price, used by the Victorian Government for funding purposes.


There were 3978 emergency separations for constipation in Victoria in 2010–2011, 92% in public hospitals. Fifty-five percent were female and 38% > 75 years old. One third stayed overnight and 1/3 more than 1 day. The emergency bed day rate was 7.1 per 10,000 of population. The estimate of cost, based on WEIS, was approximately $8.3 million. Potential savings could be made by reducing the number of separations in 6 Local Government Areas (LGAs).


This study shows that the burden (in number of admissions, emergency bed days and overall direct costs) in managing emergency admissions for constipation in Victoria, Australia, is very significant and likely to be similar in other developed countries. Improved primary healthcare and alternative ways to achieve faecal disimpaction without emergency admission could save the public health system a proportion of this $8.3 million.