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  1. Madsen, Diane BSN, RN
  2. Sebolt, Tamara BSN, RN
  3. Cullen, Laura MA, RN
  4. Folkedahl, Beverly BSN, RN, COCN, CWCN
  5. Mueller, Toni MSN, RN, CCRN
  6. Richardson, Corinne BSN, RN
  7. Titler, Marita PhD, RN, FAAN


Overview: Nurses' practice of listening to bowel sounds was first proposed in 1905 and continues today, largely unquestioned. The authors developed a project to determine whether any compelling evidence exists for using this method to assess for the return of gastrointestinal (GI) motility following abdominal surgery. Literature on the subject was evaluated and an assessment of nursing practice was conducted. Based on the literature review and the assessment, a nursing practice guideline was developed, implemented, and evaluated. (Note that the nursing practice guideline outlined in this article was evaluated for use with abdominal surgery patients only and hasn't been evaluated in and may not be appropriate for other patient populations). The results were positive and indicate that clinical parameters other than bowel sounds, such as the return of flatus and the first postoperative bowel movement, are appropriate in assessing for the return of GI motility after abdominal surgery. Bowel sound assessment was discontinued and patient outcomes were evaluated to make sure that the practice change had no adverse effect on patients' recovery.