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Ann Surg. 1990 Jun;211(6):777-84; discussion 785.

Gastrointestinal myoelectric and clinical patterns of recovery after laparotomy.

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Department of Surgery, University of Virginia, Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville 22908.


The objective of this study was to define the patterns of myoelectric activity that occur throughout the gastrointestinal tract during normal recovery from laparotomy. Electrodes were placed on the stomach, jejunum, and transverse colon of 44 patients undergoing laparotomy. Basal electric rhythms in all areas showed no changes in frequency after operation (up to 1 month). Gastric spike wave activity showed a gradient of increasing activity from fundus to antrum. Antral spike activity was unchanged during the study. Jejunal spike activity was present in the earliest recordings and occurred in 45.9% +/- 3.5% to 59.9% +/- 5.5% of slow waves. Recovery of normal colon discrete and continuous electric response activity occurred on postoperative day 5.9 +/- 1.5. Bowel sounds returned on day 2.4 +/- 0.5 and passage of flatus and stool occurred on day 5.1 +/- 0.2. The myoelectric parameters measured are not absolutely predictive of uneventful recovery from postoperative ileus but they are, as a group, more informative than any currently available clinical criteria.

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