Effect of intra-abdominal instillation of a local anaesthetic, bupivacaine, on postoperative colonic adynamic ileus was studied in a double blind manner in a randomised series of patients undergoing upper laparotomy. Propulsive colonic activity was studied postoperatively with radio-opaque markers and serial abdominal radiographs. Intra-abdominal instillation of bupivacaine 2 mg/kg bw significantly shortened the period of postoperative colonic inhibition (p less than 0.01), but did not hasten colonic transit. Furthermore, bupivacaine significantly decreased the hyperglycaemic response to surgery. It is suggested that bupivacaine inhibits the inflammatory response within the bowel wall, a response which may maintain the inhibitory spinal reflexes in the postoperative period. Blood concentrations of bupivacaine were shown to be well below toxic levels and no adverse reactions were observed.
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