What Is The Meaning Of NABS Medical Abbreviation?

It is not uncommon to find the NABS medical abbreviation in patient’s folders, clerking, and management records in clinics and during ward rounds. Medical abbreviations are short forms used by doctors and health workers to save time while attending to patients.

So for this post, we will be looking at the medical abbreviation NABS, its full form, why and when it is used.

What Does NABS Mean In Medical Terms?

The full form of NABS medical abbreviation is “Normal Active Bowel Sounds”.

Now imagine having to write down something like this during ward rounds as a medical house officer while your consultant is dictating a full patient’s history. It makes sense to just use the NABS medical abbreviation to save time for writing more important details.

The Medical Term Normal Active Bowel Sound

Bowel sound also known as peristaltic sound is a medical term used to describe the sound made by the peristaltic movement of food down the gastrointestinal tract. Bowel sounds are in form of rumbling, growling, or gurgling noise which is heard through the aid of a stethoscope placed on the Mc-burney’s point (two-thirds of the line between from the anterior superior iliac spine to the umbilicus).

In some cases, these bowel sounds are intense and are loud enough that they can be easily heard by bare ears and such are called bowel rumbles or borborygmus.

What is a normal active bowel sound?

A normal active bowel sound is said to be present in a person when there is a presence of 5 to 30 bowel sounds per minute. This is when the NABS medical abbreviation can be reported.

When these bowel sounds are not present, it is usually indicative of an obstruction in the intestine, ileus, or an ongoing disease process.

How Is A Normal Active Bowel Sound Determined?

To determine whether a heard bowel sound is normal, you will need a stethoscope which is placed over the Mc-burney’s point of the abdomen. Then you should listen carefully in a quiet room for at least 2 to 3 minutes to hear the bowel sounds. A bowel sound of about 5 to 30 in a minute is considered normal.

NABS Medical Abbreviation: Causes Of Bowel Rumbles

It is very normal to have bowel sounds. In fact, the absence of bowel sounds for a long period of time should be a source of concern. But in some cases when they are excessive, it could be due to any of the following causes;

  • Indigestion: When there is incomplete digestion of food especially carbohydrates, milk, and dairy products (like lactose), there is the accumulation of excess gases in the intestine leading to hyperactive bowel sounds.
  • Hunger: Hunger is one other major cause of stomach rumbles. This usually commences around 2 hours after the stomach has been emptied. It sends signals to the brain which informs the digestive muscles to start peristalsis again.  
  • Air Ingestion: Bowel rumbling can also be a result of swallowing air while talking, drinking, or eating.
  • Disease Conditions Like The Following Can Cause Air Rumbling
    • Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
    • Colitis
    • Diverticulitis
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Blocked blood vessels
  • Other Causes:
    • Some drugs that slow down digestion
    • Post-surgery general anesthesia
    • Radiation to the abdomen
    • Spinal anesthesia
    • Abdominal surgery

How To Manage Bowel Rumble

If left without treatment, the bowels will go back to their normal form producing normal bowel sounds. But if the sounds are due to constipation, gases, or bloating, then you may consider limiting the intake of certain foods that will increase bowel gas.

Examples of such foods include;

  • Some fruits like apples, raisins, and peaches
  • Some vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and artichokes)
  • Whole grain and bran products
  • Carbonated drinks like soda
  • Lactose containing meals like milk
  • Beans
  • Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol

The Use Of The NABS Medical Abbreviation In Surgery

Nabs medical abbreviation
NABS Medical term in surgery

There are certain specialties in surgery where certain procedures involve the abdomen, general anesthesia, or spinal anesthesia. For such procedures, it is recommended that the patient is placed on Nil Per Os until bowel sound returns.

Within this time, the bowel sound is being monitored by listening with a stethoscope on the abdomen. When the bowel sounds return and are normo-active, the patient can now start tolerating food orally.

Take Home!

The NABS medical abbreviation stands for normal active bowel sounds. Bowel sounds are usually harmless and normal or else they are associated with an ongoing disease process.

But in some rare situations, abnormal bowel sounds can be life-threatening especially if they are associated with any of the diseases mentioned above.

To find out if a bowel sound is normal, it is checked with the aid of a stethoscope with its diaphragm placed on the Mcburney’s point on the abdomen, then carefully listening for about 2 to 3 minutes.


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