Your recovery from surgery will be greatly dependent upon the type of surgery you will have. Depending on the nature of the surgery and the type of anesthesia, a person may go home directly from the recovery room or be admitted to the hospital. After the operation is completed and anesthesia begins to wear off, you will be taken to a recovery room to be closely watched for 1 to 2 hours. Most people feel groggy when awakening, particularly after major surgery. Some people are nauseated for a short while and some people may even feel cold.
Direct Discharge Home
A person being sent home must be:
- Thinking clearly
- Breathing normally
- Able to drink fluids
- Able to urinate
- Able to walk
- Free of severe pain
People who have been given sedatives and then discharged need to be accompanied home by someone else and are not permitted to drive themselves. The operative site should be free of bleeding and unexpected swelling.
People who are admitted to the hospital after surgery may awaken to find many tubes and devices in and on them. For example, there may be a breathing tube in the throat, oxygen tubing in the nose or mask delivering oxygen over the nose and mouth. There may be adhesive pads on the chest to monitor the heartbeat, a tube in the bladder, a device attached to a finger to measure the level of oxygen in the blood, a dressing on the operative site and one or more tubes attached to IV (intravenous) sites on the body.
During your time in the hospital you will be closely monitored by nursing staff, your physician(s), and various other medical personnel to be sure you are recovering as expected. This will include frequent assessments of your functioning, vital signs, surgical site, pain and all body systems.
Diet after Surgery
Your physician will instruct you on the diet that is best for you. Dependent upon the procedure that you have had, it is common to begin with small sips of clear liquids like water, juice or tea and then slowly advance your intake to soups and foods that are easily digested. Once it has been determined that your body can tolerate these foods, you can begin to eat solid foods. It is advised that you avoid foods that are greasy, heavy, spicy, or difficulty to digest during the recovery phase.
Activity after Surgery
The level of activity you will be permitted varies widely with the procedure performed. Pain is often a good indication of whether you are trying to do too much. If activity causes pain to increase sharply, you may be trying to accomplish too much too soon and should make attempts at resuming your previous activity level more gradually. Experiencing no pain is often an unreasonable expectation, but pain should be manageable with appropriate use of the pain medication prescribed by your physician. If you are recovering from surgery at St. Vincent Healthcare, it is our goal to provide you with adequate pain control and minimize the possibility for unwanted side effects and complications.
Some people need rehabilitation after surgery, which involves special exercises and activities to improve strength and flexibility, as well as function. You may be seen by occupational and physical therapists while you are in the hospital or arrangements may be made for you to utilize their services as an outpatient.
When to Call the Surgeon with Concerns
If you are recovering at home, it is important to know when to notify the surgeon of any complications that can arise after surgery. The following signs and symptoms are warnings of possible complications and should be reported to your surgeon immediately:
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever over 100 degrees
- Black, tar-like stools
- Pain that increases sharply or suddenly, or becomes uncontrolled with your pain medication
- An increase in wound drainage or change in the quality of drainage; redness, increased pain, warmth or firmness around the incision site, new bleeding, or the development of an opening at the incision site
- A decrease in your ability to function or care for yourself
- A change in your level of consciousness or ability to wake
- Persistent diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or vomiting
- Inability to tolerate food or drink
- Unexplained pain in one or both legs