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Surreptitious abuse of magnesium laxatives as a cause of chronic diarrhoea

Duncan, Andrewa; Forrest, John A. H.b

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: May 2001 - Volume 13 - Issue 5 - p 599-601
Case Report

Surreptitious laxative abuse is increasingly considered as a possible cause of unexplained chronic diarrhoea. Laboratory services for detection of colonic stimulant laxatives are widely available; however, laboratory facilities for identifying patients with magnesium-induced diarrhoea are not commonly provided, making diagnosis difficult. We describe three patients who surreptitiously abused magnesium laxatives, and whose diagnoses were delayed, leading in each case to extensive investigations and lengthy in-patient stays. In all three cases, the diagnosis was eventually made by the simple measurement of magnesium in a random faecal sample. We would like to increase the awareness of surreptitious magnesium laxative abuse as a cause of chronic diarrhoea so that costly and unnecessary investigations may be minimized.

aDepartment of Clinical Biochemistry, Royal Infirmary, and bDepartment of Gastroenterology, Stobhill Hospital, North Glasgow University Hospitals NHS Trust, Glasgow, UK

Received 29 August 2000

Accepted 8 November 2000

Correspondence to Andrew Duncan, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Royal Infirmary, North Glasgow University Hospitals NHS Trust, Glasgow G4 0SF, UK Tel: +44 141 211 5159; fax: +44 141 553 2558; e-mail: aduncan@gri-biochem.org.uk

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.