Objectives: Treatment of postoperative ileus remains unsatisfactory. Erythromycin (EM), a macrolide antibiotic, has prokinetic effects on the gut. We investigated whether intravenous erythromycin decreases the time to the return of normal bowel function after bowel surgery in patients with bladder cancer and interstitial cystitis who have undergone cystectomy and urinary diversion. Methods: We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 22 volunteers. On the first postoperative day, patients began receiving intravenous erythromycin (125 mg) or placebo every 8 hours (maximum of 21 doses). The patients' ability to tolerate a general diet and return of bowel function was monitored. Results: A general diet was tolerated at a median of 9 days postoperatively for the EM arm and 8 for the placebo arm (P = 0.60). The first bowel sounds were detected at an average of 2 postoperative days for the EM arm and 3 for the placebo arm (P = 0.88). First flatus was present an average of 5 days postoperatively for both study arms (P = 0.35). The first bowel movement was present an average of 6 days postoperatively for the EM arm and 5 for the placebo arm (P = 0.98). Conclusions: No significant difference was found between EM and placebo with regard to the onset of bowel sounds, passage of flatus, passage of the first bowel movement, and the time to tolerate a general diet. These data indicate that erythromycin is not useful in improving postoperative bowel function.
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