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Patients Urged to Watch for Trouble After Colon Surgery

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who have had bowel surgery should be made aware that there are 12 important post-surgery signs of complications, a new study suggests.

Researchers asked a panel of experts to develop a list of warning signs that colon or rectal surgery patients should watch for after they leave the hospital and what they should do if these problems occur.

The panel advised that patients who have had bowel surgery to treat tumors, cancer or bowel obstruction, including those who have had an "ostomy" of any type -- a surgically created opening in the body for the discharge of body waste -- to watch for these 10 symptoms and contact their surgeons if these occur:

  • Wound drainage, opening or redness: all three of these symptoms can indicate an infection.
  • No bowel movement or a lack of gas/stool from an ostomy for more than 24 hours.
  • High ostomy output and/or dark urine or no urine.
  • Increasing abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Fever higher than 101.5 degrees F.
  • Not being able to take anything by mouth for more than 24 hours.

The experts also said there were two other symptoms -- chest pain and shortness of breath -- that require a trip to the nearest emergency department, according to the study in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The study is the first step toward incorporating these warning signs into already established discharge instructions for bowel surgery patients, said study author Dr. Linda Li, of the Michael DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Each year, more than 600,000 people in the United States have surgery for colon and bowel disorders, according to the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.

Research has shown that more than 11 percent of all such surgery patients are back in the hospital 30 days later. These stays last about eight days on average and cost the health care system a total of $300 million each year, according to a study cited in an American College of Surgeons news release.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines what patients need to know before having surgery.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Surgeons, news release, Feb. 7, 2013

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