Background: Constipation severity is often defined by symptoms including feelings of complete evacuation, straining, stool frequency and consistency. These descriptors are mostly obtained in the absence of laxative use. For many constipated patients laxative usage is ubiquitous and long standing. Our aim was to determine the impact of laxative use upon the stereotypic constipation descriptors.Methods: Patients with confirmed slow transit constipation completed 3-week stool diaries, detailing stool frequency and form, straining, laxative use and pain and bloating scores. Each diary day was classified as being under laxative affect (laxative affected days) or not (laxative unaffected days). Unconditional logistic regression was used to assess the affects of laxatives on constipation symptoms.Results: Ninety four patients with scintigraphically confirmed slow transit constipation were enrolled in the study. These patients reported a stool frequency of 5.6 ± 4.3 bowel motions/week, only 21 patients reported <3 bowel motions/week. Similarly, 21 patients reported a predominant hard stool at defecation. The majority (90%) of patients reported regular straining. A regular feeling of complete evacuation was reported in just 7 patients. Daily pain and/or bloating were reported by 92% of patients. When compared with laxative unaffected days, on the laxative affected days patients had a higher stool frequency (OR 2.23; P <0.001) and were more likely to report loose stools (OR 1.64; P <0.009). Laxatives did not increase the number of bowel actions associated with a feeling of complete evacuation. Laxative use had no affect upon straining, pain or bloating scores. Conclusions: The reporting of frequent and loose stools with abdominal pain and/or bloating is common in patients with slow transit constipation. While laxative use is a significant contributor to altering stool frequency and form, laxatives have no apparent affect on pain or bloating or upon a patients feeling of complete evacuation. These factors need to be taken into account when using constipation symptoms to define this population.