TUESDAY, Sept. 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Chewing gum after heart surgery may relieve postoperative gut problems, according to a study presented at the annual Perioperative and Critical Care Conference, hosted by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and held virtually from Sept. 10 to 11.

Sirivan Seng, M.D., from Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pennsylvania, and colleagues instructed 379 consecutive patients undergoing cardiac surgery from 2017 to 2020 to chew one piece of gum three times a day for five to 10 minutes once deemed stable to participate. Rates of postoperative ileus were compared between this cohort and 496 patients undergoing similar elective cardiac surgeries between 2013 and 2016.

The researchers found that in the gum-chewing cohort, two patients (0.59 percent) had abdominal distention on physical examination and radiographically confirmed postoperative ileus that required treatment versus 17 patients (3.43 percent) in the 2013 to 2016 cohort. This difference in postoperative ileus was statistically significant. Gum chewing was not associated with any complications.

“Prior to our study, there were no previously published studies looking at the use of chewing gum in cardiac surgery patients, but we found that it may accelerate the return of gut function,” Seng said in a statement. “Given the minimal risk and extremely trivial cost of this intervention, the incorporation of chewing gum following cardiac surgery should be strongly considered as a new standard of care.”

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