Recovery From Surgery
Once your surgery is over, there's only one thing you need to do: start getting back to your life. Here's what you might expect as you recover, from the first day through the first few weeks.
When you wake up after surgery you may still have the IV in your arm to give you fluids and pain medication. You may have small bandages over your incisions. As you become more awake, you'll be given something to drink and eat (don't get excited – it's not a meal), and the staff will get you up to walk around a little.
In addition to eating, drinking and being steady on your feet, you'll have to be able to urinate before you can go home. And you'll only be released if you have a responsible adult to drive you. You may also need to have someone staying with you for the first night. It’s a good idea to have someone stay with you for the first several days if possible, so you can ease back into activity.
Before you leave, someone will go over your discharge instructions with you. These include what to expect over the first few days, how to care for your incision(s), a list of symptoms or warning signs, and a number to call if you notice any of them or have questions. You'll be pretty groggy from the anesthesia, so give this packet of information to the person taking you home or staying with you. Decide before surgery where you'll put it so you can find it if you need it.
If you're given a prescription for pain medication prior to the day of surgery, fill it, even if you don't think you'll need it. If you're given a prescription the day of surgery, have someone fill it for you. Some people find an over-the-counter pain reliever is all they need, but make sure to ask your doctor which medications are OK to use after surgery, as some can increase the chances of bleeding.
Plan to rest for the first few days after surgery. You probably won't need much encouragement; you'll be pretty tired. Have a pillow handy to put over your abdomen for support in case you cough, sneeze, or vomit (which can be a side effect of anesthesia). Your incision(s) may be sore for two or three days and may be swollen, bruised, tender, or numb. It's all normal and should go away within a few weeks. But if you have any concerns or questions, call the number you got from the hospital or your doctor. There are no stupid questions.
You can expect to tire more easily during the first week or two, but you'll notice improvement pretty quickly. Pay attention to how you feel, and ease back into your normal routine. If you need to work a shorter day, do it. You won't be productive at work if you're over-tired anyway. Depending on your occupation, full recovery may take anywhere from one to six weeks.
There's a general principle behind what you can and can't do as you recover: You want to prevent infection, enhance healing, and avoid brisk coughing and weight gain.
Now the specifics will make sense:
If you notice any of the following, call the number the hospital gave you:
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.