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Article shines light on post-operative ileus

Post-operative ileus – a condition where the bowel ‘goes to sleep’ following colon surgery – is the subject of an article by trainee surgeon and HTC Foundation member Stephen Chapman and HTC Clinical Director Professor David Jayne, in the latest issue of the IA Journal.

The IA Journal is published by the Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Support Group (IA), which is run by and for people who have had their colon removed, to help them return to a full and active life. Published quarterly, the Journal goes out to over 12,000 IA members, surgeons, doctors, nurses, ostomy equipment suppliers and manufacturers and other interested parties.

The article, written jointly by Stephen Chapman, Professor Jayne, and Maureen Naylor from the West Riding of Yorkshire IA, discusses the causes, consequences and possible treatments for post-operative ileus before talking about the research challenges and the role of the HTC.

Post-operative ileus is a common condition in patients following colon surgery. In most patients the bowel quickly returns to normal function, but in 12 percent of patients the condition is prolonged. This can lead to constipation, bloating, vomiting and reduced mobility, which itself increases the risk of chest infections and blood clots in the legs and lungs. Longer time for recovery means a longer stay in hospital, which is neither good for the patient nor the NHS.

But there are considerable challenges in researching the condition, as Professor Jayne explains: “While there are agreed guidelines for doctors and nurses to follow post-surgery to enhance recovery for patients, it is still difficult to diagnose post-operative ileus and the evidence around many potential treatments remains inconclusive. We need further clinical research to improve diagnosis and treatment, alongside scientific research to better understand why ileus occurs, so that we can tailor treatments in the future to have a better chance of success.”

Some of the new treatments highlighted by the article as forming part of current research include nerve stimulation to kick-start the bowel and new medicines to counteract the impact of morphine-based drugs – one of the likely causes of post-operative ileus. The HTC  is one of a number of research groups across the UK and Europe, working with surgeons, scientists, nurses, and patient groups like the IA to develop new treatments for the condition.