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British Heart Foundation
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Sleepy Bowel

Hi everyone, hope your all doing well. My hubby had his AV replacement surgery on 15th Sept which went really well. However he is still in hospital due to not opening his bowels. They have said he has "sleepy bowels" ileus. They have given various drinks & he has had an enema but so far not worked. Ct scans all looks fine.

Specialist did see him today & they are hoping bowel will wake up & are giving him another enema tonight. I did google this but not always the best thing to do!

Has anyone else experienced this?


11 Replies

Hi I had AV done on the 3/8/17

I was kept in hospital 2 wks prior to surgery and 6 days after op, I too had problems

Going, they gave me all sorts

But it didn't really happen lol

It's a mixture of hospital food and being out of your own routine and also after surgery your bowel is the last thing to wake up, I was not in any discomfort and still hadn't gone when I was discharged, but as soon as I got home about 2 hrs in normal service resumed .

Wish your husband a speedy recovery.

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Thanks KazSumm x


I had some issues, which were sort of better when I was discharged. It did hurt a little, and I did bleed once I was able to go which was rather alarming, but nothing to really worry about. I didn't have to have an enema, it was sorted with senna tablets. I imagine your husband has tried that though?

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Hospital has been given him laxatives since the surgery. Just annoying that he can't be released until this is sorted. However I would rather him be in there than at home if there is a problem. Hopefully another enema tonight will sort him out! Thanks so much for your comments x


Hi Louby Lou, I'm so glad the op went well and I hope his bowels wake up soon.

I'm still waiting for my date. It looks as though it could be some weeks yet! I'm not too bad though apart from the tiredness. my disorientation has improved a bit except when I've overdone it.

Best of luck for your husband's recovery and I hope he gets home soon.


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Expert on Constipation here. Born with anorectal malformations I have had it my whole life and done daily enemas for 18 years. My bowels did not open until day 17 post op. I was discharged, howeverr on day 7 with out my bowels opening. This is because I had pre-diagnosised functional bowel disease and my bowels have never opened naturally so my doctors knew it was going to be difficult to get them restarted post procedure and called the GI Clinical Nurse specialist for support before admission. In the end I had to give 2 retrograde enemas (the ones like your husband) and 10 ante-grade enemas to get normal function back.

I know you have said the hospital have given enemas- check whether these contain a sodium Biphosphate solution. The sodium Biphophate solution works a million times better than saline. The next thing to check (it sounds silly but you would be surprised how many people do not realise it) is if your husband is holding the enema solution in his rectum long enough for it to work. Doctors forget to tell you about this part.

Another easy thing is if there is any way your husband can stand in a warm shower once the enema solution is in this can really help for two reasons. If the water is not quIte the right temperature or enters the large bowel but due to constipation can not leave the abdominal muscles tense up made worse if one is just anticipating the enema to work and stressing when it does not. The shower a) distracts you and b) the warm water can help relax the abdominal muscles. If I am completely constipated come my daily enema often I put it in and go in the bath- after about 10 minutes often I can go toilet.

If all else fails exercise is very good for constipation. So really ask you hubby to get moving and out of his bed- not easy. Ask if the doctor could arrange for him to do a physiotherapy session immediately before administering the enema. The bowel evacuates literally by being mobile, if the bowel is not mobile itself you can recreate the effect using exercise. Every felt hat burning desire for an evacuation after exercise? This is why. Specific exercises that are not demanding that can promote bowel motility including bend over touch toes stand up repeat and like log rolls on the floor but walking is better than nothing.

Same theory as behind exercise- the bowel tends to be more mobile after eating (I think it is around 20 minutes) so see if the enema can be scheduled then.


Thanks so much Midgeymoo17, really valuable info here. I will check which enemas he is having. I do know he has them late at night when he's been laying down then lays down in bed waiting/holding (most likely tenses) for a while x


Hi there,

Yes i am still having trouble now after mitral valve replacement on the 30th August

I did have an enima in hospital which did work bit i am constipated again at home

Am sure the 2nd will work for him..bless.i feel his pain..its awful.

I too wondered if the bowel got slightly sleepy after surgery

Hope all is well soon x

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Hi, I now to midgeymoo's obviously more expert advice. I came out blocked. Normal laxatives didn't work, didn't get an enema. Straining really badly at home. Went to pharmacy, got some suppositories. Didn't seem to work, kept in for an hour, then boom! All good. The relief is wonderful. Good luck to hubby. He'll settle when he gets home.


Those glycerin 5mg suppositories were absolute magic for me. I had lots of morphine which bungs you up horribly, and felt ghastly. Completely took my mind off my heart!

Then discovered the suppositories, if one didn't work, two always did!

Midgeymoo. Your advice on exercise will be invaluable next time. Thank you.


Your welcome. I know its not an easy one after heart surgery been there done that but those are two exercise I use when my enemas do not work well and normally help give a result.

Ans yes I am sorry I forgot about glycerine so @chrsfm thanks for adding it. My bowel habits are so bad I had an operation when I was little (3 year) to allow me to give enemas through the abdominal was that are more effective than rentals and have not had t use glycerine since- but I have heard of people using it in both types of enemas and it helps.


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