Surgical Tribune Europe

Coffee speeds up restoration of bowel function after colon surgery

By Surgical Tribune
October 23, 2012

HEIDELBERG, Germany: Patients who have undergone a colectomy may benefit from drinking coffee after surgery. According to a new study, the drink stimulates bowel function more quickly than water, is well tolerated and thus counters bowel obstruction—a frequent problem following intestinal surgery.

After major intestinal surgery, many patients suffer from constipation or bowel obstruction, which can be accompanied by bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. In some cases, this can even lead to longer hospitalisation of the patient. If bowel obstruction is not treated in time, life-threatening inflammation and infections can develop.

The clinical study by a group of scientists at the Heidelberg University Hospital, led by surgeon Dr Sascha Müller (now based at Kantonsspital St. Gallen, Switzerland), examined 80 patients, split into two groups, who had undergone bowel surgery. One group drank 100 ml of water three times a day, while the other group was served 100 ml of espresso (100 per cent Arabica coffee) three times a day. The first bowel movement among the water drinkers occurred after 74 hours, while this period was significantly shorter for the coffee drinkers—60 hours. Furthermore, the last group was already able to take in solid foods after an average of 49 hours, compared with 56 hours for the water group.

The reason that coffee has such a positive effect on bowel function is unknown. According to the researchers, the effect is not related to the caffeine, as studies with decaffeinated coffee have shown evidence of intestinal stimulation too. Crucial for use in patients is that the coffee was well tolerated in the current study and that there were no complications, the researchers said. Despite the improvement in bowel function, the patients could not be discharged from hospital earlier.

The study, “Randomized clinical trial on the effect of coffee on postoperative ileus following elective colectomy”, was published in the November issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

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