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  1. Li, Bing PhD, RN
  2. Tang, Sheng RN
  3. Ma, Yan-Lan PhD, RN
  4. Tang, Jingping MS, RN
  5. Wang, Bin RN
  6. Wang, Jian-Rong MS, RN


The auscultation of bowel sounds (BS) has been neglected as a reliable tool for determining gastrointestinal (GI) functioning in the critically ill patient. This article considers the validity of BS auscultation in the assessment and management of critically ill patients and outlines how the information may be utilized for monitoring GI function. A descriptive, cross-sectional design with self-administered questionnaires was used to survey 132 nurses and 38 doctors in the 6 general intensive care units in Beijing hospitals. Descriptive statistics and chi-square test analyses were used to assess the level of knowledge about BS among Chinese doctors and nurses and to determine how they applied their BS auscultation findings in the care of critically ill patients. Bowel sounds were found to be the primary indicator for determining GI functioning in the unconscious, critically ill patient. However, only 11.4% of nurses and 47.6% of doctors could make correct clinical judgments on the basis of their auscultatory findings. The attitudes of nurses and doctors differed significantly on whether BS auscultation was needed to monitor GI function for unconscious patients. Bowel sounds auscultation remains an important indicator of GI function. Distinct and feasible standards regarding BS auscultation and results interpretation need to be established.