One of the most distressing, and also most common, consequences of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is an inability to control bowel movements. The condition can lead to social embarrassment for the injured person, impact upon his or her relationships, and delay the patient's return to work.

To date, the most common approach to bowel management in SCI patients is laxative use combined with manual emptying of bowels, but this often can leave patients dependent upon attendant care for extended periods.

Long-term problems with bowel management canweaken the bowel wall, requiring surgery that further compromises quality oflife for the patient.

There is hope for improvement in this area, however, thanks to the drug capromorelin that promises to stimulate defecation in patients with injured spinal cords.

Professor John B Furness from the University of Melbourne's Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience recently led a research team to begin testing the effectiveness and safety of capromorelin for use on people with SCI.

It will also help the TAC to reduce the claimant costs associated with bowel issues.

Status

The initial testing stages of this research have now been completed.

A report confirms that capromorelin is effective in stimulating bowel movements and safe to use on humans. It recommends that the TAC proceed with the next stage of testing on SCI patients.

The work was also summarised across two journal articles: one focusing on stageone, and the other on stage two.

As part of this work, the team also investigated another drug, ulimorelin. They are concerned about its side effect of lowering blood pressure and so ruled it out as a treatment option. This discovery is further detailed in a journal article.

The team also plans to produce and promote updated guidelines regarding bowel care for people with SCI. Watch this space for updates.