Why is Constipation a Big Deal After Surgery?
Constipation can progress to impaction, which is when the stool is so hard and dry that you cannot have a bowel movement. The hardened stool must be removed by enemas, digital disimpaction (where the doctor or nurse use their fingers to help dislodge the hardened stool) or (in advanced cases) surgery.
Severe, prolonged cases of constipation can cause enough damage that segments of the intestine must be removed, which often means that the patient will need a colostomy. Constipation and impaction, along with the straining patients do to try to force a bowel movement, can also cause unusual heart rhythms, rectal prolapsed, hemorrhoids and shortness of breath.
In surgery patients, this straining can cause stress on incisions, both internal and external, and in extreme cases, it can cause the incisions to open. Open heart surgery patients can be at particular risk from constipation as the heart is still recovering from surgery and cannot tolerate the changes in heart rhythm that straining can cause.
For patients who have had surgery in the gastrointestinal tract, such as colon surgery or weight loss surgery, constipation can cause damage to the surgical area.