Some women with irritable bowel syndrome date the onset of symptoms to previous hysterectomy. To assess prospectively the incidence of gastrointestinal symptomatology arising de novo after hysterectomy, and to study the effect of surgery on pre-existing symptoms, 205 women completed a symptom questionnaire before and six weeks and six months after surgery. Beforehand, symptoms suggestive of irritable bowel syndrome occurred in 22% of patients. At six months after operation, 60% of these had improved or were symptom free while 20% had increased symptomatology. New gastrointestinal symptoms were present more than once per week in 10% of previously asymptomatic women. Constipation predominant irritable bowel syndrome was the commonest symptom complex seen de novo, occurring more than once per week in 5% of the group. No relation was found between new symptomatology and the type of hysterectomy, oophorectomy, or the administration of perioperative antibiotics. This study suggests that many women with pre-existing gastrointestinal symptomatology improve after hysterectomy. However, symptoms suggestive of irritable bowel syndrome do arise de novo in 10%. As hysterectomy is common, gastroenterologists can expect to see women presenting with post-hysterectomy problems.
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