In the next phase of our Delphi initiative, BDRF brought together a team of specialists at the RCS to discuss how gut recovery after surgery can be improved.

Many patients undergoing abdominal surgery suffer postoperative ileus, a distressing condition where the bowels effectively stop functioning. This causes fluid to build up in the stomach, leading to extreme pain, vomiting, and in the worst cases ‘aspiration’ of fluid into the lungs – with potentially fatal consequences. Reducing ileus was identified by both doctors and patients alike as a key priority for BDRF’s research to focus on. A great deal is already being done around the country – our aim is to tie these strands together into a major national study.

The day began with an overview of the current picture. At present, ileus is hard to predict and difficult to detect in the early stages. As a result, little is known about prevention. Patients often need to be treated with a tube fitted through the nose into the stomach, as a means of draining the stomach’s contents. The tube needs to be in place for days or weeks, and is feared by patients – who often report suffering recurring nightmares about the experience.  The major challenge for doctors is to develop a collaborative approach to prevention.

The issue is urgent as ileus can prolong a patient’s stay in hospital for weeks, disrupting their recovery and seeing massive annual costs to the NHS. It also significantly increases the pressure on bed-spaces as patients can’t go home until it’s sorted.

The afternoon saw presentations of ongoing research projects which address similar or related problems, feeding into a melting pot of ideas on what this fledgling study needs to look like. A discussion then ensued on trial design, with members of the team allocated roles ahead of a follow up meeting at the ACPGBI’s conference in Bournemouth.  We also got a patient perspective on the agony and distress this problem causes – there is huge support from patients for our work in this area.

BDRF CEO Peter Rowbottom said “It was wonderful to see such great minds from across specialties working together to develop a cutting edge piece of research. We’re hugely grateful to everyone who gave up their time, and can’t wait for the next instalment in Bournemouth later in the year.”

BDRF would like to thank the team for their contributions, and we’re looking forward to seeing where the work takes us. The energy and knowledge in the room was palpable, and major advances in patient care are waiting.