Background: Recent trials have shown promising results for the efficacy of gum chewing for the amelioration of postoperative ileus. This finding could have a major clinical impact since gum chewing is relatively harmless and cheap while postoperative ileus has a significant impact on healthcare. Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the efficacy of gum chewing after colorectal surgery to a standard control for the amelioration of postoperative ileus, expressed as time to flatus, time to defecation and overall hospital stay. Results: Five randomized controlled trials with a total number of 158 patients were found. The studies were homogeneous and a meta-analysis was performed. The pooled weighted mean difference (WMD) of time to flatus was significantly shorter for the gum-chewing group (20 h with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 13–27). The pooled WMD of time to defecation was significantly shorter (29 h, 95% CI of 19–39). There was a non-significant trend towards a shorter postoperative hospital stay (1.3 days shorter, 95% CI of 3.2 days shorter to 0.6 days longer). Conclusion: This meta-analysis shows a favorable effect of gum chewing on time to flatus and defecation but no significant effect on the hospital stay.
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