Constipation After Surgery

Constipation might be one of the worst nightmares of a person who has just had a surgery. As if having to deal with the pain, stress, and trauma of surgery is not enough, the problem of not being able to perform the routine excretory functions is even more discomforting. Many people suffer from the problems of constipation after surgery. There are several reasons for this condition, a few of which are

- Pain medication:  Medications which are prescribed to relieve pain is considered to be the major cause of constipation. These medications slow down the process of peristalsis, which is the rhythmic movement of the intestines to push along the contents of the intestine and expel the wastes. This slowed movement of waste material results in the accumulation of feces that can eventually become hardened. Multiple doses or prolonged use of pain medication increases the risk of constipation.

- Anesthesia:  Anesthesia is given to paralyze the muscles before a surgery. When anesthesia is given, along with the muscles the intestine is also paralyzed. As a result the muscle contractions of the bowels required to push the food along the intestinal tract stops, leaving the contents immobile till the intestine wakes up.

- Pre-surgery and post-surgery restrictions: In order to help with surgery and to make recovery faster, patients are usually advised not to eat and drink for an extended period or to drink minimally and not eat at all or to go on a liquid diet for a few days before and after surgery. This reduces the amount of fluid in the body which often affects the normal phenomenon of excretion. Inadequate fluid in the body causes the hardening of stools leading to constipation.

- Inactivity: After surgery, patients will have difficulty moving around. Movement is required for the wastes to pass through the system. Spending most of the time in bed reduces the bowel movements leading to constipation.
Constipation After Surgery


Constipation can lead to several complications. The stool may become so dry and hard (impaction) to be passed through the bowels that it may require enemas, digital disimpaction (using fingers to help remove the hardened stool) or even surgery to remove it from the system. Prolonged cases of constipation can sometimes lead to severe damage of the intestine so that the damaged portions of the intestine have to be removed by colostomy. Patients with constipation experience high strain while trying to force bowel movements which often leads to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, rectal prolapsed, and hemorrhoids. Sometimes the straining may cause the incisions to break open and cause damage to the area.

Constipation related to surgery can be prevented to a great extent by the following ways.

- Re-establish adequate fluid intake soon after surgery by drinking more fluids which will aid in the smooth and easy passage of the wastes and reduce the possibility of dehydration

- Intake of foods that is rich in fiber content such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals

- Try to avoid prolonged bed rest after surgery as it slows down the bowel movements.

Being active at the earliest aids in fast recovery, reduce pain, reduces the risk of clotting, restoration of bowel movements and the overall functioning of the body.

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