Because unsubstantiated beliefs link hysterectomy and cholecystectomy with bowel function, this study examined all the women who had had these operations in a defined population (79 and 37 respectively, out of 1058) with respect to bowel habits, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, and whole gut transit time calculated from records of three defecations. Compared with unoperated controls, women after hysterectomy were more likely to consider themselves constipated; they also strained more and admitted more often to bloating and feelings of incomplete evacuation. Their stools tended to be lumpier and, in women over 50 years, transit time was longer. When women treated by cholecystectomy were compared with women having newly discovered, asymptomatic gall stones, they more often described defecation as urgent but had no other detectable differences. In conclusion symptomatic constipation is frequent in women after hysterectomy; after cholecystectomy, bowel habit is not consistently changed but the rectum seems to be more irritable.
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