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Abstract

Background

Postoperative ileus has traditionally been accepted as a normal response to tissue injury. No data support any beneficial effect of ileus and indeed it may contribute to delayed recovery and prolonged hospital stay. Efforts should, therefore, be made to reduce such ileus.

Methods

Material was identified from a Medline search of the literature, previous review articles and references cited in original papers. This paper updates knowledge on the pathophysiology and treatment of postoperative ileus.

Results and conclusion

Pathogenesis mainly involves inhibitory neural reflexes and inflammatory mediators released from the site of injury. The most effective method of reducing ileus is thoracic epidural blockade with local anaesthetic. Opioid-sparing analgesic techniques and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents also reduce ileus, as does laparoscopic surgery. Of the prokinetic agents only cisapride is proven beneficial; the effect of early enteral feeding remains unclear. However, postoperative ileus may be greatly reduced when all of the above are combined in a multimodal rehabilitation strategy. © 2000 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd