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An ileus is a temporary condition in which part of the intestine becomes paralyzed and therefore does not function properly. This condition is most common after any type of abdominal surgery, especially surgeries involving the movement of the intestines. There are several ways of treating an ileus after surgery, including dietary and activity changes, as well as medical treatments aimed at increasing hydration.
Medical treatment of an ileus after surgery often begins in the hospital with intravenous therapy. The IV will be used to inject fluids into the body so that dehydration does not occur, complicating the condition even further. If vomiting, another common symptom, is present, a nasogastric tube may be placed to help ease this symptom. This tube is inserted into the nose and passes into the esophagus and then into the stomach. This allows nutrients to be placed into the stomach when a person cannot hold down food or drink independently.
Once released from the hospital, there are still things a person can do to help treat an ileus after a surgical procedue from home. One of the first recommendations is to discontinue the use of medications, such as opiates, which are known to aggravate the condition. Narcotic medications are known to cause constipation as well as other types of bowel discomfort, particularly following surgery.
Dietary modification can often help treat an ileus after surgery. It is typically recommended that the introduction to solid foods be delayed until the condition has healed. Many patients have reported a faster recovery time if they chew gum during the recovery process. This seems to speed up flatulence, leading to the ability to have a bowel movement more quickly.
Medications aimed at promoting bowel activity are frequently recommended for those who have developed an ileus. There are several types of gentle laxatives available for home use by the patient. These include suppositories, tablets, and powders that can be mixed with a variety of liquids. If there is no success with these options, the doctor can prescribe a stronger laxative to encourage the bowel to resume proper functioning.
Using physical activity to treat an ileus after surgery is a bit controversial. While in general mild to moderate exercise is beneficial in encouraging bowel activity after surgery, there are scientific tests that show no proof that this is the case when treating an ileus. However, overall recovery time is often shorter in patients who move around as soon as possible after any type of surgical procedure.