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Surgery: What to Expect

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After Surgery

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, 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.

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 pneumonia, bleeding, infection, clotted blood (hematoma) at the surgery site, 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.

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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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