A common problem in about 40% of patients having bowel surgery is that their bowel takes longer than normal to start working again. In most patients the bowel will start working after surgery in 3- 4 days, but in some it takes a week or more. We call this “delayed recovery of gut function”. This delayed recovery causes nausea, vomiting, complete constipation, tummy pain and tummy swelling (distension). As a result, patients cannot eat or drink until gut function returns, their recovery is slower and they have to stay longer in hospital. There is no immediate cure, and although it gets better on its own in most cases, it can take from 3-7 days to do so. During this time patients have to have a continuous intravenous drip and often insertion of a nasogastric tube to empty the stomach to reduce vomiting (most patients find this very unpleasant).
One of the common drugs used in hospitals is the local anaesthetic: Lidocaine. This is used to “freeze” parts of the body, for example for minor skin operations or dental procedures. Recently Lidocaine has been used intravenously (through the vein) as part of a general anaesthetic. It reduces pain and inflammation caused by surgery, and seems to help other aspects of recovery that may be important for return of gut function, for example reducing nausea and vomiting, and shortening the time from surgery to first bowel movement. However, previous studies were small and the true benefit of Intravenous (IV) Lidocaine is uncertain. We hope to find out if giving IV Lidocaine improves recovery of gut function after colorectal surgery for NHS patients.