Does gum-chewing help surgical recovery?

August 1, 2004

A small randomized study presented at ACOG's annual meeting in Philadelphia suggests it may. And since gum-chewing is inexpensive, it may promote early recovery from postoperative ileus, according to the investigators.

Sixty-four women who underwent abdominal laparotomy participated in the study, done at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. Beginning on the first postop day and continuing until passage of flatus, half the patients chewed gum three times per day and half did not. The gum-chewers passed flatus 11 hours earlier than the non-gum-chewers (44 vs. 55 hours; P<0.03). Times to defecation were comparable in the two groups: 2.5 versus 2.6 days. The gum-chewers had slightly longer postoperative hospital stays: 3.6 versus 3.2 days. Use of gum was not associated with any major complications.

Lee DDK, Runowicz CD, Chambers JT, Langer O. Efficacy of gum chewing in improving the recovery of bowel function after major gynecologic surgery. Obstet Gynecol. 2004;103(suppl):21S.