What is postoperative care?

Postoperative Care

What instructions might you get after surgery?

Your instructions after surgery will cover which medicines to take and when, your level of activity, what foods to eat, and the use of special equipment. You will also get instructions on taking care of your incision, including bathing, changing the bandage, and symptoms to look for that may be a problem.

When can you be active again after surgery?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself after surgery is to get up and move around several times a day. But be careful not to do too much.

Here are some tips:

  • Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Taking short walks is a good way to help your body heal.
  • Rest when you feel tired.

Your doctor may give you instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving, having sex, and going back to work.

What do you need to know about taking medicines after surgery?

Your doctor will talk with you about restarting your medicines. The doctor will also tell you about taking any new medicines.

  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. You will be told if and when to start taking those medicines again.
  • If your doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
  • If you aren't taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

What do you need to know about giving your child medicines after surgery?

Your doctor will talk with you about restarting any of your child's medicines and starting any new medicines.

If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed. If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.

What do you need to know about eating after surgery?

If your doctor told you when you can start eating and what foods you can eat, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:

  • You can eat your normal diet when you feel well. Start with small amounts of food.
  • If your bowel movements aren't regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fiber, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

After surgery: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You cannot pass stool or gas.
  • You are sick to your stomach and cannot drink fluids.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through your bandage.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

When can you go home after surgery?

Before you can go home after surgery, your care team will confirm that your pain has been controlled. They'll check that you can eat, breathe well, drink fluids without vomiting, be upright without fainting, and urinate on your own. You may need to go to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility before going home.

What are some common concerns after surgery?

The most common problems right after surgery are pneumonia, bleeding, infection, bruising or blood clotting (hematoma) at the surgery site, trouble urinating, and reactions to the anesthesia.

In the first 48 hours after surgery, the most likely risks are bleeding and problems with your heart or lungs. From 48 hours to 30 days after surgery, the most common risks are infection, blood clots, and problems with other body organs, such as a urinary tract infection.

Another concern is pain control. Inflammation or nerve injury from the surgery can cause pain. Your doctor may give you more than one medicine for pain. Often opioids are given. In some cases, you may use a pain pump so that it's easy to get pain medicine right when you need it.

Anesthesia can have side effects. Two of the most unpleasant ones are nausea and constipation.

Nausea will soon wear off. But constipation can leave you uncomfortable for several days after your surgery. You may get a medicine to help you move your bowels.

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