Caused by narcotic pain medication, inactivity, dehydration, and less food, constipation is a common problem after orthopedic surgery.

Preventing constipation

Take these steps before surgery to prevent constipation:

  • Stay well hydrated. Drink 6-8 eight ounce glasses of water per day.
  • Eat a high fiber diet. Aim for 15-30 grams of dietary fiber per day, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as bran fiber, whole wheat, or oats.
  • Walk as often as tolerated.

Managing constipation

  1. Use over-the-counter Senokot-S which is a combination of Senna and a stool softener. Take 2 tablets every night at bedtime.
  2. If you continue to be constipated the next day, add over-the-counter Miralax (polyethylene glycol) one dose a day.
  3. If you do not have a bowel movement two days after taking Senokot-S and Miralax, increase Senokot-S to 2 tablets twice per day, increase Miralax to two times per day and add a ducolax suppository once a day.
  4. If your constipation is not relieved in two more days, increase Miralax to three times per day, and increase Senokot–S to 2 tablets three times per day. Once constipation is relieved, take 2 tablets of Senokot-S twice per day and Miralax twice per day.

If you develop diarrhea, do not take any laxatives for one day, then resume regular schedule until you are no longer taking narcotic pain medication or you return to your normal bowel schedule.

When should I contact my surgeon?

  • You start having persistent nausea, are unable to drink fluids, or continuous vomiting.
  • You have a fever or abdominal pain with the constipation.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.