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Treatment | Surgery | Bowel preparation for cancer surgery

These FAQs about hysterectomy have been answered by women who have been through this surgery because of gynecologic cancer. For more information about hysterectomy, please visit our Web Resources page and Our Stories by survivors who received surgical treatment.

 Why is bowel preparation necessary for abdominal surgery?

 

 Why is bowel preparation necessary for abdominal surgery?

 Georgia P., Massachusetts, USA: A full bowel prep (clear liquids only for twenty-four hours, "sparkling" laxative etc., no fluids during the last twelve hours) is a "must" if the doctor orders it. If the intestines or bowel are even "nicked" at any time during surgery, there is the possibility of contamination of the surgical field, as well as the possibility that the organ can not be resected (partially removed and reattached) if necessary. To ensure the surgeon will be able to address any issues he discovers, it is very important to follow instructions to the letter, for your own safety.

For a complete explanation check out this Pre-Op Guide, prepared by a surgeon, especially the section on how to prepare for surgery.
http://www.preopguide.com/preop-guide/patguidtosur5.html

 Sue D., Pennsylvania, USA: My bowel prep seemed more rigorous than some of the others (but then I only had to have a catheter for one day--some consolation! ;-). I had to go on a liquid diet for two days before surgery (clear liquids the second day), take magnesium citrate (a laxative) in the evening both days, and have an enema both days, though by the second day there was not much left to come out, frankly!

My surgeon explained that any abdominal surgery that exposes the colon causes it to "just paralyze" for a while and it doesn't "wake up" until it's good and ready! That's why we all wait for the magic moment of "passing gas" after surgery before we can go home.

Another reason for the full prep is that the surgeon also checks for any evidence of cancer spread to the colon by "running the bowel" (her words) --- actually examining it manually to feel any lumps, polyps, etc. Obviously, it would have to be empty, since feeling particles of stool could issue false alarms.

You can imagine how much the intestines like that! That's why it takes several weeks to get back to normal bowel function. During this time, the intestines also re-arrange themselves and this also causes some post-surgical discomfort.

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