Controlling postoperative ileus by vagal activation

T. Lubbers, W.A. Buurman, M. Luyer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Postoperative ileus is a frequently occurring surgical complication, leading to increased morbidity and hospital stay. Abdominal surgical interventions are known to result in a protracted cessation of bowel movement. Activation of inhibitory neural pathways by nociceptive stimuli leads to an inhibition of propulsive activity, which resolves shortly after closure of the abdomen. The subsequent formation of an inflammatory infiltrate in the muscular layers of the intestine results in a more prolonged phase of ileus. Over the last decade, clinical strategies focusing on reduction of surgical stress and promoting postoperative recovery have improved the course of postoperative ileus. Additionally, recent experimental evidence implicated antiinflammatory interventions, such as vagal stimulation, as potential targets to treat postoperative ileus and reduce the period of intestinal hypomotility. Activation of nicotinic receptors on inflammatory cells by vagal input attenuates inflammation and promotes gastrointestinal motility in experimental models of ileus. A novel physiological intervention to activate this neuroimmune pathway is enteral administration of lipid-rich nutrition. Perioperative administration of lipid-rich nutrition reduced manipulation-induced local inflammation of the intestine and accelerated recovery of bowel movement. The application of safe and easy to use antiinflammatory interventions, together with the current multimodal approach, could reduce postoperative ileus to an absolute minimum and shorten hospital stay.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1683-7
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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