Nose-Stomach Tube Slows Recovery From Surgery

May increase risk of complications following abdominal operations, study says

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MONDAY, Jan. 24, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- The routine use of nasogastric (nose-to-stomach) tubes in patients after they have abdominal surgery slows recovery and may increase the risk of some postoperative complications, says a University of Illinois College of Medicine study in the January issue of The Cochrane Library.

The use of nasogastric tubes following abdominal surgery was believed to speed the return of patients' normal intestinal functions. Resumption of digestive processes is an important factor in determining when hospital patients can be sent home.

Many surgeons still use nasogastric tubes.

The rationale for using the nasograstic tube was that keeping the digestive tract empty would help it get back to normal more quickly and that the tube would reduce the likelihood of vomiting and related aspiration pneumonia, the study authors said.

They reviewed 28 studies of emergency or elective abdominal surgeries involving 4,194 patients. Some of the patients had a nasogastric tube in place until they recovered normal intestinal function while others had selective tube use -- either no tube or the tube was removed within 24 hours after surgery.

The review found that selective tube use resulted in an earlier return to normal bowel function with no significant increase in pulmonary complications.

"Routine nasogastric decompression does not accomplish any of its intended goals and so should be abandoned in favor of selective use of the nasogastric tube," the study authors concluded.

More information

The University of Michigan has more on recovering from abdominal surgery.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Jan. 23, 2005


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