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AJN, American Journal of Nursing

February 2004, Volume 104 Number 2 , p 72A - 72C


  • Gordon Gong MD


One of the common consequences of abdominal, chest, pelvic, or orthopedic surgery is the retention of postoperative intestinal gas, a symptom of postoperative ileus, the expected but discomforting impairment of gastrointestinal motility after surgery that can lead to greater morbidity and prolonged hospitalization. 1 Exercising as soon as possible after such surgery generally is recommended to help relieve gas pain caused by its retention. Yet ordinary exercise (such as walking) may help only after the intestines have recovered and are therefore strong enough to expel gas. In the interim, one of the most effective ways in which patients can relieve gas pain is in assuming the position in which the knees are brought up to the chest (knee–chest position) and rocking back and forth. 2 However, the degree of pain, certain locations of incision, decreased mobility, and encumbering wires and tubes attached to the body may prevent patients from executing that maneuver comfortably, if at all. Abdominal massage and a rocking chair may be recommended.

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