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Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2010;3:87-9. Epub 2010 Jul 1.

Pathogenesis and clinical and economic consequences of postoperative ileus.

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  • 1Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Postoperative ileus (POI) occurs frequently in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery; and only recently has there been renewed interest in understanding the pathogenesis, etiology, clinical manifestations, and clinical and economic consequences related to POI. This interest has been spurred by the potential access to novel pharmaceutical options for the management of POI. POI has a complex and multimodal pathophysiology including neurogenic, inflammatory, hormonal, and pharmacologic components. The clinical manifestations are clinically obvious and include abdominal distention, pain, nausea, vomiting, and inability to pass stools or tolerate a solid diet. Prolonged ileus has been defined as persistence of these symptoms for more than 4 days after major abdominal surgery; however the goal should be to reduce the incidence of these symptoms immediately after surgery. Clearly, the magnitude of the surgical stress and usage of opioid analgesia are the predominant causes of POI. The unappreciated sequelae of POI include increased rates in adverse surgical wound healing, reduced ambulation, atelectasis, pneumonia, urinary infections, and deep vein thrombosis. The secondary impact of these complications includes increased hospital length of stay, resource use, and healthcare costs. POI is common and the impact is underestimated. The addition of alvimopan as the first in class μ-opioid inhibitor has demonstrated consistent benefit in reducing the incidence and impact of POI with reductions in length of hospital stay. POI is a common, and underappreciated complication of major abdominal surgery, and clinicians should be aware of the clinical care options, including novel pharmaceutical agents, that can successfully reduce the incidence of this postoperative complication.


abdominal surgery; alvimopan; postoperative ileus

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