Objective: To determine the incidence and the effect of intraoperative and discharge variables on gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms after cardiac surgery during hospitalization and 2 and 6 weeks after discharge.
Design: Prospective and descriptive.
Setting: Two university-affiliated medical centers.
Patients: One hundred twenty-two adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery.
Outcome measures: Frequency of GI symptoms and level of distress caused by GI symptoms during hospitalization and 2 and 6 weeks after hospital discharge.
Instruments: GI symptoms were measured by The Gastrointestinal Symptom Frequency and Symptom Distress Scale. Depression was measured by The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.
Intervention: Demographic and physiologic variables were collected by chart review. Patients completed the Gastrointestinal Symptom Frequency and Symptom Distress Scale and The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale in the hospital. Telephone interviews were used to collect 2- and 6-week data.
Results: Fifty-seven percent of patients after surgery reported poor appetite, 37% lack of taste, and 34% nausea during hospitalization. The frequency of all GI symptoms decreased with time; 19% of subjects reported poor appetite, 19% lack of taste, and 10% nausea at 6 weeks after discharge. Although poor appetite occurred with the greatest frequency, patients reported the greatest distress with lack of taste. When analyzed with a logistic regression model, use of antihypertensive agents was associated with lack of taste; use of diuretic and antiarrhythmic agents was associated with nausea; and level of depression was associated with all three GI symptoms. Length of cardiopulmonary bypass time mean arterial blood pressure during surgery, mixed venous oxygen saturation during surgery, and subject age did not significantly affect the frequency of GI symptoms at any data collection point.
Conclusions: The incidence of GI symptoms after cardiac surgery is significant, but their etiology has yet to be determined.