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What to Expect During Colorectal Cancer Surgery

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Recovery From Colorectal Cancer Surgery

When you wake up from colorectal cancer surgery, you will be in a recovery room. You will have an oxygen mask covering your nose and mouth. This mask delivers a cool mist of oxygen that helps eliminate the remaining anesthesia from your system and soothes your throat. Your throat may be sore from the breathing tube that was present during your surgery, but this soreness usually subsides after a day or two.

Once you are more alert, the nurse may switch your oxygen delivery device to a nasal cannula (small plastic tubing that hooks over your ears and lies beneath your nose). Depending on the percentage of oxygen measured in your blood, you may need to keep the oxygen in place. The nurse will check the oxygen content of your blood by placing a soft clip on one of your fingers.

Later, you will be moved to a hospital room where nurses will measure your "intake and output." They will document all the fluids that you drink and measure and collect any urine or fluids you produce, including those from tubes or drains placed during surgery.

The tube that was passed from a nostril into your stomach (a nasogastric tube) during surgery will be removed in the recovery room. You may begin to drink liquids the morning after surgery. Once you have passed gas or have had a bowel movement, you will resume a solid diet. If you become nauseated or begin to vomit, your nasogastric tube may be reinserted.

If this happens, don't be alarmed. Nausea and vomiting are common and occur because your intestines are temporarily disabled from the surgery and the effects of anesthesia. For this reason, food and drink are given slowly for the first few days after surgery.

You will be encouraged to get out of bed starting the first day after surgery. The more you move, the less chance for complications such as pneumonia or the formation of blood clots in your leg veins.

The length of your hospital stay will depend on the type of procedure you are having and how quickly you recover. For example, the average hospital stay for a laparoscopic partial colectomy ranges from three to six days.

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