Surgery: What to Expect
If you go home the same day
Relief of any nausea or vomiting is an important concern. If you will be going home the same day, you will need to drink fluids without vomiting, be upright without fainting, and urinate on your own before you will be sent home.
If you go home, the nurse will give you instructions on breathing and exercises to help prevent any problems. For most minor surgeries, the nurse will encourage you to be as active as possible to prevent these problems.
Your doctor may give you medicine for pain.
If you stay in the hospital
Pain control remains an important concern after surgery. Inflammation or nerve injury from the surgery can cause pain. Your doctor may give you more than one medicine for pain. Often, Reference opioids Opens New Window are given. In some cases, you may use a Reference pain pump so that it's easy to get pain medicine right when you need it.
Typically, before you go home your doctors and nurses will make sure that:
- You can breathe using your full lung capacity.
- You are able to eat.
- Your pain has been controlled so that it doesn't interfere with your physical activities.
Risks of surgery
The most common problems after surgery are Reference pneumonia Opens New Window, bleeding, infection, clotted blood (hematoma) at the surgery site, and reactions to the Reference anesthesia Opens New Window.
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.
Anesthesia side effects
Along with putting you to sleep during surgery, anesthesia can have side effects. Two of the most unpleasant ones are nausea and constipation.
While nausea will soon wear off, your constipation can leave you uncomfortable for several days after your surgery. Your nurses can give you a medicine to promote bowel movement. But eating may actually be the most effective means of ending constipation, because food will push waste through your system.
Ready or not?
You may meet most of the criteria to go home but may not be able to do certain things well enough to go home. In this case, you may go to a type of assisted-living facility instead of to your home. Nurses and rehabilitation specialists at an assisted-living facility can help you work toward getting home.
Home care instructions
You will most likely go home with a sheet of instructions including whom to contact if you have a problem.
A nurse will go over these instructions with you. He or she can also help arrange for any care you will need when you go home. This may include nursing care or visits from other health care workers.
Your instructions will include:
- Which medicines you are to take and when, including medicines you take regularly.
- The level of activity that is safe for you to do. For example, the instructions will likely list when it is okay to drive, how much you can walk each day, how much weight you can lift, and what other things you can do as you recover. For most minor surgeries, you will be encouraged to be as active as possible to avoid problems.
- What foods to eat and how your bowel and urinary habits may be different.
- The use of special equipment, such as a sling or crutches.
Your home-care instructions will include Reference how to take care of your incision. The instructions will explain:
- The best way to bathe and protect your wound, such as how to cover the area if needed and when it is safe to shower and let the incision get wet.
- How to care for and change your surgical dressing.
- What clothing to wear to avoid rubbing your incision area.
- What symptoms to look for that may be a problem. Reference Signs of a skin infection Opens New Window, such as a fever, increased pain, or increased drainage, need to be checked by your surgeon. Mild swelling and redness around the incision area is normal after surgery.
Your instructions will include when to have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon. Your surgeon will want to talk to you before your follow-up appointment if:
- You aren't sure about your home-care instructions. Ask right away if you have any questions about wound care or drainage.
- You develop a symptom or problem that you don't know how to handle.
- You develop an unexpected symptom or problem.
- You aren't able to take your medicines.
When should you call your surgeon?
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have these symptoms:
- Reference Signs of shock Opens New Window
- Reference Moderate to severe difficulty breathing Opens New Window
- Severe pain
- Shortness of breath with a rapid heartbeat. These may be symptoms of Reference pulmonary embolism Opens New Window.
- An increase in leg swelling. This may be a sign of Reference deep vein thrombosis Opens New Window, a condition that can be very serious if not treated.
Your recovery from surgery may be different from what your surgeon expected. Other symptoms or problems may develop after your surgery, even when you follow your surgeon's instructions. This can be very frustrating.
Be sure to call your surgeon if you have an unexpected symptom or problem, including:
- Nausea and vomiting. If you aren't able to keep fluids down, you may become Reference dehydrated Opens New Window.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Pain that doesn't go away after you take your pain medicine.
- A temperature higher than 101°F (38°C).
- Difficulty urinating or having a bowel movement.
- Loose stitches or an open surgical wound.
- Pus draining from your wound or red streaks.
- A rash.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference November 5, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Michel M. Murr, MD - General Surgery, Bariatric Surgery