Bowel Function After Minimally Invasive Urogynecologic Surgery: A Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial

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The goals of this study were to assess the effect of a standardized postoperative bowel regimen of over-the-counter medications on (1) time to first bowel movement (BM) and (2) pain level associated with first BM in subjects undergoing minimally invasive urogynecologic surgery.


Eligible patients scheduled to undergo minimally invasive urogynecologic surgery were offered participation. Enrolled subjects were randomized by computerized schedule. Demographic and perioperative data were collected. Subjects completed a validated questionnaire preoperatively and postoperatively assessing preexisting constipation, frequency and consistency of bowel movements, use of pain medications, mean daily pain level (using visual analog scale), stool consistency, and pain associated with first postoperative bowel movement. The control group was instructed to take docusate sodium twice daily postoperatively. The treatment group took docusate sodium plus Miralax, fiber wafers, and bisacodyl suppositories as directed by protocol. Wilcoxon or t testing was used to compare continuous variables; χ2 testing was used for categorical relationships, and backward-elimination multiple regression was used to assess independent effects.


Seventy-two subjects were enrolled and randomized. Twelve subjects withdrew, leaving 60 (30 per group) completing the study. There were no statistically significant differences between groups in baseline characteristics. Mean (SD) age was 63 (9) years for the control group and 58 (10) for the study group (P = 0.06). Mean pelvic organ prolapse stage was III in each group. The mean (SD) operating room time was 198 (65) minutes for the controls and 216 (74) for the study subjects. Sixty-five percent underwent robot-assisted surgery (50% hysterectomy and 63% sacrocolpopexy). Ninety-eight percent of surgeries were performed under general anesthesia.


Before adjustment, the mean (SD) time to first BM was 77 (24) hours in controls versus 64 (21) in the study patients (P = 0.03). Using multiple regression, baseline frequency of defecation (1–2 BMs/wk) was directly associated with the time to first BM (added 25.2 hours; P = 0.009) and being in the study group was inversely associated (first BM, 11.7 hours sooner; P = 0.04). No other variables were retained.


There was no difference in pain associated with first postoperative BM (visual analog scale, 3.6 (3.2) vs 3.7 (2.8); P = 0.98), but those with prior complaints of vaginal or rectal splinting had higher pain scores (1.9 and 2.8 points higher, respectively; P = 0.04 for both). There was a trend toward higher pain scores with higher postoperative daily narcotic intake (P = 0.06). No other variables were retained.


There was a significant difference in recorded compliance between control versus study regimens (94% vs 81%, respectively; P = 0.002).


Mean time to first postoperative BM after minimally invasive urogynecologic surgery is more than 3.5 days with use of docusate sodium alone and is only slightly shorter when combination therapy is used. First BM after surgery is considered to be painful despite the use of medications. Future studies targeting postoperative discomfort/pain with defecation could target preoperative bowel regimens or more aggressive postoperative interventions. Regimens should remain simple to increase compliance.

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