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All About Constipation

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Updated April 11, 2014

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Why Does Constipation Strike After Surgery?

What Causes Constipation After Surgery?

Surgery patients are prone to constipation for multiple reasons:

Pain Medication: The primary reason for constipation after surgery is that the prescription drugs given for pain relief can cause constipation. If you must take large or multiple doses of pain medication or you have taken the pain medication for an extended period of time, you will be at risk for constipation.

Food and Drink After Surgery: As part of your preparation for surgery, you may have been instructed not to eat or drink. After surgery, you may have been told to drink minimally and perhaps not eat at all for a day or two. The combination of too little fluid and no food intake can work against your body’s normal routine of elimination.

Too little fluid in the body means less fluid in feces, resulting in hard, dry stools. Food works to stimulate the digestive system and keep things moving along. With no food being eaten, the “food in, food out” mechanism doesn’t work.

Your dietary choices, along with your intake level, also may have changed after surgery. Even the food provided in the hospital may be a major change from your normal diet and can cause constipation.

Inactivity: Getting up and walking or being active is one of the triggers for a bowel movement. Suddenly spending most of your time in bed resting can help to trigger a bout of constipation.

Anesthesia: Most patients think of anesthesia as something that puts us to sleep. Anesthesia, though, also paralyzes the muscles: your intestine is paralyzed during surgery along with your arms and legs. This stops the muscle contractions to push food along the intestinal tract. Until your intestines "wake up" there is no movement of feces.

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