During the past 40 years most surgeons have used either nasogastric intubation or temporary gastrostomy as a routine adjunct in the post-operative care of patients undergoing abdominal surgery. The rationale for gastric decompression is prevention and treatment of postoperative abdominal distention. However, many patients do not require any gastric decompression following even major abdominal operations and, indeed, complications may arise from use of either nasogastric intubation or gastrostomy.
A recent communication in the Archives of Surgery1 discusses experience with over 1,200 major abdominal surgical cases in which gastric decompression was not used. Results indicate that the majority of the patients in whom nasogastric intubation is not used have a smoother convalescense, fewer respiratory complications, are easier to nurse, and have fewer fluid and electrolyte problems than patients in whom suction is used. Nasogastric intubation to prevent abdominal distention from swallowed air may give a false sense of security; the