How to Pass Gas After Surgery
How to Pass Gas After Surgery
After abdominal surgery, the digestive tract often slows down. If you haven't passed gas, you may experience symptoms of pain, bloating, and a swollen, distended belly.If it doesn't return to normal, you can develop an obstruction, which makes it important to pass gas or have a bowel movement soon after surgery. Luckily, there are easy steps to encourage normal bowel movements after surgery. Soon, you'll be feeling relief!
Stimulating Bowel Function
Walk around as soon as possible.Your surgeon will advise you to walk as soon as you’re able. If necessary, a nurse or other medical professional will help you move around the recovery room or hallway.
- Medical staff will likely help you to walk around as soon as your anesthesia wears off, or within 2 to 4 hours after surgery.
- Walking after surgery is essential, as it stimulates the bowels and prevents blood clots.
Rub your abdominal area.Rubbing helps with pain and can stimulate your bowels to begin moving again. Ask your doctor about the best area to rub.
- If you had surgery on your abdominal area, disregard this suggestion.
Try light leg and trunk exercises.If you’re not able to walk, a doctor or nurse might extend your legs, then bring your knees toward your chest. They might also help you rotate your torso to the left and right. These light exercises can help your digestive tract return to normal function.
- Ask your doctor or nurse how to do light exercises without hurting your surgical site.
Chew sugar-free gum at least 3 times per day.Chewing gum sends nerve signals and hormones to the intestines that stimulate the muscle movements involved in digestion. There’s strong evidence that patients who chew gum after surgery begin passing gas sooner than those who don’t.
- While scientists don’t understand why, sugar-free gum is more effective than gum that contains sugar.
- Talk to your doctor before chewing gum after surgery.
Drink a cup of caffeinated coffee daily.In a clinical trial, patients who drank a cup of caffeinated coffee after surgery began passing gas about 15 hours before those who didn’t drink coffee. To stay on the safe side, ask your doctor if it’s safe to consume caffeine before trying coffee.
- In the study, coffee was more effective at restoring bowel function than tea.
Agree to an anal catheter if your doctor recommends it.If you're having trouble passing gas, your doctor can relieve the pain and bloating by doing an anal catheter. They will insert a small tube into your anus to release the built up gas.
- While you may experience discomfort, this procedure will not hurt.
Talk to your doctor about early feeding.Usually, medical professionals fast patients after surgery until they’ve passed gas. This means that you cannot eat until after you've passed gas. However, early feeding, or consuming clear liquids or a light meal 24 to 48 hours after surgery, might encourage normal bowel function. If you haven’t passed gas yet, ask your doctor if early feeding might be beneficial.
- In most cases, the doctor will require that you continue to fast.
Avoid straining when you pass gas or have a bowel movement.It takes time for your digestive system to return to normal, so don’t strain or force gas or a bowel movement. When you do begin passing gas and going to the bathroom, don't push yourself to go.
- Depending on the location of your surgical site, straining could cause damage.
- Your doctor might recommend a stool softener or mild laxative to make it easier to go to the bathroom. Take these and any other medications as directed.
Taking Medications That Improve Bowel Function
Discuss taking NSAID pain relievers with your doctor.Ask your doctor if you should take an NSAID, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and ask them to recommend a dosage. Taking NSAIDs relieves intestinal inflammation, which interferes with bowel function. Additionally, NSAIDs can reduce the need to take narcotic pain relievers, which make it more difficult to pass gas and go to the bathroom.
- Since you’ll be prescribed narcotic pain relievers, you’ll need to consult your doctor about the right dosage and type of NSAID medication to avoid harmful drug interactions.
Ask your doctor about alvimopan.Alvimopan is a medication that reduces stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting that opioid pain relievers can cause after surgery.If you're having trouble passing gas, your doctor might prescribe 2 oral doses per day for up to 7 days or until you’re discharged from the hospital.
- Before taking alvimopan, tell your doctor about any medications you take and whether you have a history of kidney or liver disease. Your doctor might have to adjust your dosage or monitor for adverse side effects if you take a calcium channel blocker, antibiotic or antifungal medications, or medication for irregular heartbeat.
Take a stool softener and laxative if your doctor approves.Depending on the type of surgery you had, your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter stool softener and a mild laxative. Take these and any other medications according to their instructions.
- Don’t take a laxative without asking your doctor.
Relieving Pain and Bloating
Place a warm pack on your stomach for 20 minutes.Apply the warm pack 3 to 4 times per day or whenever you experience bloating. Test it with the back of your hand before placing it on your stomach to avoid burning yourself. Don’t place a warm pack directly onto your incision, as the skin around the surgical site is sensitive and prone to getting burned.
- A warm pack can relieve pain and help your bowels return to normal.
- Purchase a microwavable warm pack at a pharmacy, and microwave it for 30 seconds or as directed. You could also use a clean washcloth. Moisten it, then microwave it for 30 seconds.
Eat broth or soup, bread, crackers, and other bland foods.Go for foods that are easy to digest until your bloating and gas pains improve. Protein sources can promote healing, but you should stick to poultry, whitefish, and other lean options. Additionally, follow any special dietary instructions you doctor gave you.
Avoid foods and drinks that worsen gas.Gas-producing foods include legumes (such as lentils and beans), broccoli, corn, and potatoes. Carbonated beverages can also worsen gas pain and bloating. If any other items upset your stomach, such as dairy or spicy food, avoid them as well.
Drink at least 64 fluid ounces (1.9 L) of water per day.Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water, juice, or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help soften your stools and make it easier to pass gas and go to the bathroom. It’ll also help your surgical site heal.
Take an over-the-counter gas medication.Medications that contain simethicone can help ease gas pain, especially if you’ve had a hysterectomy or C-section. Check with your doctor before taking any medicine after surgery. Take medication according to their instructions or follow the directions on the label.
Sources and Citations
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