Method: Adult patients admitted to hospital for major gastrointestinal, urological or gynaecological surgery, in an emergency or elective setting, were eligible to participate. Patients treated nonoperatively for small bowel obstruction were also eligible. Interviews were conducted by telephone, audio-recorded, transcribed, coded and analysed using NVivo software by two researchers and reviewed by lay members of the steering group. Interviews continued until data saturation was reached. Ethical approval was gained prior to interviews (21/WA/0231).
Results: Twenty nine interviews were completed (17 men, median age 64 years) across three specialties (20 gastrointestinal, six gynaecological, three urological). Two overarching themes of ‘general recovery’ and ‘gastrointestinal symptoms’ were identified. General recovery included three themes: ‘life impact’, ‘mental impact’, including anxiety, and ‘physical impact’, including fatigue. Gastrointestinal symptoms included three themes: ‘abdominal symptoms’ such as pain, ‘diet and appetite’ and ‘expulsory function’, such as stool frequency. A total of 18 gastrointestinal symptoms were identified during patient recovery—many of which lasted several weeks following discharge.
Conclusion: This study reports a range of gastrointestinal and nongastrointestinal symptoms experienced by patients during early gastrointestinal recovery. Identified symptoms have been synthesized into a conceptual framework to enable development of a definitive PROM for early gastrointestinal recovery.