Bowel (colon and rectum) cancer

A support group for anyone affected by colon, rectal or small bowel cancer to come together, share experiences and ask questions.

Sleeping bowel post surgery

Posted by


My husband had his cancer (hopefully) cut out a week last wednesday. He came home on Thursday, but within 5 hours had to be rushed back to hospital. He looked so poorly, he was vomiting, no urine or stoma output. After several hours at a&e he was re-admitted onto the ward he had earlier left.

They have decided his bowel is sleeping post surgery and his ct scan shows adheisions in the intestines. I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this post surgery. The hospital have been unable to control his pain. He has been in almost constant agony since Thursday. He says it hurts more than it did straight after the surgery and no matter what meds they try they can't get it under control.

He has also been unable to have the catheter removed as his bladder seems to be in shock too. It just seems like one thing after another. He has never been poorly before this, even with the cancer prior to diagnosis on 13th January and confirmation of diagnoses on the 1st February other than a few pain in the tush (pun intended!) symptoms which they had thought was maybe crohns or an allergy. We have only just started on the cancer rollercoaster but it is already exhausting us both.

Anyway I am going off topic here, he has had recently some odd side effects of.... I guess the fluid that are being pumped intohim through IV. But they are maybe a little too personal for here.

If any one has experienced the sleeping bowel and can help with how long to expect it to last etc, that would be very helpful. The hospital are not giving very much helpful info. Just telling us we have to just wait and see, which is what they are saying with EVERY new thing that pops up. It's like they have no clue.


Thanks x

Posted by

Your poor husband, he really is having a rough time.

I am not quite clear from what you say whether the bowel /stoma was working before he was discharged from hospital. Also, you mention not being able to remove the catheter - again, was this removed prior to discharge from hospital and then reinserted when the problem happened? In my experience, the hospital does not normally discharge until the bowel is working and the catheter is removed. I was in for 7 days and those were basically the two things that had to happen before they would let me out.

Regarding how long the bowel takes to wake up after surgery, I have heard of someone where it took 21 days. To a certain extent I can see that the only option for the bowel waking up is to wait and see because everyone is different. Mine took 6 1/2 days and more or less as soon as they were working I was discharged.

I am sorry to hear about the pain and it does seem amazing that they cannot bring that under control. I can only suggest keeping on at them to try different things until they find something that works.


Posted by

Hi Nick,

His stoma was working from day one and then hal way through day nine (within hours of getting home) it sems it fell asleep.

As far as the catheter is concerned, he had two attempts at removing it before leaving hospital both failed, as his bladder muscles where unable to do anything. He didn't feel the need to o at all and even when it was starting to really hurt in his kidney area he still couldnt vacate his bladder. so the decision was made to send him home with the catheter and leave it until the 1st March when he has to go back in to have it removed.

He now has a tube down into his stomach to stop anything from collecting in his stomach. Nothing is leaving his stomach so he has been nil by mouth since Thursday. He is on a constant drip to keep him hydrated. If he eats or drinks anything he ends up violently vomiting.

I seriously hope for his sake it is not 21 days! I think he might have gone mad by then and maybe lost his job...

Thanks, Becky

Posted by

Hi Becky

I had my bowel op about 6 years ago. My situation was probably slightly different in that my stoma didn't work at all for a very long time. My consultant accused me of having a lazy bowel.

It is as your husband is finding it, if the stoma isn't working then there's no point putting food in at the top end. And it isn't very nice vomiting every time you try.

I understand it is sometimes a bit of a black art getting the bowel to start moving again but they do start and 6 years on my stoma is working perfectly well after what was a very uncertain start.

Have patience - although it's difficult when you're in the middle of it.


Best regards


Posted by

Hi there Becky,

I really do empathise with your poor hubbie, the sleeping bowel is quite common it seems but it's awful to experience. I was vomiting even with nothing in my stomach, I couldn't stop retching. This also made it more difficult to control my pain as a lot of the painkillers cause nausea so I avoided them.

I was in hossie for 5 days and what settled my stomach in the end was tiny sips of clear soup rather than the water. It's a case of just trial and error and waiting. The nasogastric tube is there to get rid of any stomach gasses that would bloat.

Every case is different though and your hubbie has other complications with bladder and adhesions. I do hope things start working for him shortly. Things DO get better, it just takes time and of course in hossie that time seems to drag on and on.

Also hope his pain relief can be sorted but again, it's a difficult one and my stoma nurse warned me that I would experience pain and feel uncomfortable for a few months (i had my rectum removed).

Easy to say, but be patient and take each day as it comes and things will get better along the way.

Take care


Posted by

Oh man I really sympathise, although Im amazed your hospital let him go in that state.

I had my ULAR three weeks ago now - It took approx three days for my gut to wake up again and the last 24 hours of that were by far the most miserable of my life. my stomach was full too and with nothing coming out none of the medication would work either. After three days I was violently and voluminously sick (they tried outting in a gsatric tube but I couldnt handle it) and almost immediately I felt better and my guts kicked in to a semblence of life.

Unfortunately theres very little you can do but wait for the gut to wake up again. There is medication they can give him to help, butotherwise its a matter of time :-/

If hes not feeling too grotty - getting up and walking around can help get the guts back up and running.

Good luck to you both.