Post-Op: Recovering at Home
You'll be going home after your surgery to recover. Your doctor or nurse will give you post-op instructions to follow. These will help you learn to care for yourself and heal faster. Here's some information to help you with your recovery. You will also receive this information from your surgeon.
Your doctor will decide when you're ready to go home after surgery. Your doctor or nurse will answer questions about home care. You will also receive post-op instructions and will need a family member or friend to assist you as you recover.
Coping with Pain
You may have pain after surgery. Pain medication will help you feel better and heal more quickly. Ask your doctor about other ways to control pain, like heat, ice, and relaxation. Follow instructions as given.
Take pain medication only as directed.
Don't take it more or less as told.
Taking pain medication before bed may help you sleep
Don't drink alcohol while taking pain medication; it can make you dizzy, slow down your lungs, or be fatal.
Ask your doctor before taking other medications, herbs, or vitamins.
Pain medication can cause constipation. Avoid laxatives unless they are prescribed to you. Take in plenty of fluids and fiber. Tell your surgeon if you have stomach pain, nausea, skin rash, itching, or hives.
If you still have pain an hour after taking pain medication, you feel too sleepy, dizzy or groggy, or you have nausea, vomiting, or skin changes, call your surgeon.
Caring for an Incision
You may have a dressing over your incision to keep it clean and dry. Follow your surgeon's or nurse's instructions for caring for it. Keep your incision higher than your heart when you sit, rest, or sleep to help reduce swelling and pain. It's ok if your incision has slight redness or is swollen. Some bleeding or discharge is also normal. However, if these symptoms increase, there is a bad odor, or if the incision is warm to the touch, you may have an infection. Place a clean dressing or cloth over your incision and call your surgeon if this occurs. A fever may also mean infection. Take your temperature twice a day. If your temperature stays above 101ºF, call your surgeon.
Only shower or bathe once your surgeon says it's ok. Keep your dressing, tube, or drain clean and dry. If a tube comes out, son't panic and call your surgeon right away. Also call your surgeon if you have numbness, increased swelling or pain, or bluish fingers or toes (signs of a post-op circulation problem).
Getting Good Nutrition
Eating healthy helps your body heal, but eat what is good to you since you may have nausea after surgey. If you were eating a special diet before surgery, ask your doctor if you should continue with it while you recover.
You may want to start with liquids like tea, soda, or soup. Move to soft foods like mashed potatoes or applesauce when you're ready. Then try high-protein solid foods like beans, yogurt, fish, or chicken. It helps to drink plenty of water. Drink 6 to 8 glasses a day (each being 6 to 8 ounces), unless you are told not to. A sign you are not getting enough fluids is dark yellow urine. Try clear soup, toast, crackers, ginger ale, and gelatin to help with nausea. If you have nausea, avoid fatty foods. Eat small amounts more often and drink bubbly liquids to help you burp. Call your surgeon if you have nausea, vomitting, or diarrhea 12 hours after surgery.
Becoming More Active
It's likely you will feel tired after surgery, so get plenty of rest to allow your body to heal. Slowly become more active. Follow instructions about breathing, coughing, driving, and other activities.
To help clear your lungs and prevent pneumonia, you may be shown how to deep breath and cough after surgery.
If you were sent home with a spirometer, use it as you have been shown.
After minor surgery, deep breathe and cough regularly for 1 to 2 days.
After major surgery, deep breathe and cough regularly until the pain from your incision goes away.
Support your incision with a pillow when you cough.
Don't smoke in order to avoid lung problems.
Get up and walk around as much as you can, as this speeds healing. Stand up slowly so you won't become dizzy and get plenty of rest so you won't become worn out. Ask your surgeon when you can do other activities. Don't drive or get into a car until your surgeon tells you it's ok. Call your surgeon if your incision opens up, you have increased pain or soreness after moving, or your temperature is above 101ºF.
Your surgeon will need to check your healing and see that you're recovering safely. Ask when to return for your follow-up visit and who to call to make the appointment. Also ask when you will have your stitches, staples, tube, or cast removed.
If you've been taking medications for diabetes, heart disease, or another condition, ask your doctor about taking them while you recover. This can help avoid side effects. Going back to work depends on the type of surgery you have and the type of job you do. Your surgeon will decide when you can return to work. It's usually four to six weeks after major surgery and a few days after minor surgery. You may still be tired so take frequent breaks during your workday and rest when you go home.
Don't hesitate to call or ask with any questions before or after your surgery. We can be reached at 860-886-0660.