Introduction: Patients undergoing bowel resection or other major abdominal surgery experience a period of delayed gastrointestinal recovery associated with increased postoperative morbidity and longer hospital length of stay. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension, bloating, pain, intolerance to solid or liquid food, and inability to pass stool or gas. The exact cause of delayed gastrointestinal recovery is not known, but several factors appear to play a central role, namely the neurogenic, hormonal, and inflammatory responses to surgery and the response to exogenous opioid analgesics and endogenous opioids. Discussion: Stimulation of opioid receptors localized to neurons of the enteric nervous system inhibits coordinated gastrointestinal motility and fluid absorption, thereby contributing to delayed gastrointestinal recovery and its associated symptoms. Given the central role of opioid analgesics in delayed gastrointestinal recovery, a range of opioid-sparing techniques and pharmacologic agents, including opioid receptor antagonists, have been developed to facilitate faster restoration of gastrointestinal function after bowel resection when used as part of a multimodal accelerated care pathway. This review discusses the etiology of opioid-induced gastrointestinal dysfunction as well as clinical approaches that have been evaluated in controlled clinical trials to reduce the opioid component of delayed gastrointestinal recovery.
- Drug effects
- Gastrointestinal motility
- Mu-opioid receptor antagonists
- Perioperative care
ASJC Scopus subject areas