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8 Common Surgery Complications

What to do to reduce your risk of these post-surgery complications.

3. Blood Clots

Clots most often occur following orthopedic procedures, but they can occur in any patient, Kroh says. Smokers, morbidly obese people, and immobile patients are most at risk for clots, which usually form in the legs.

However, those clots can migrate to the lungs, where they can cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.

Warning signs include swelling in the affected leg and calf pain. Shortness of breath and chest pain may be signs that the clot has moved to the lungs.

4. Fatigue and Lack of Energy

This is something that patients often underestimate, Kroh says. “Some patients expect that they can be discharged and get right back to work. But general anesthesia causes fatigue that can last for some time, and energy levels will also take time to get back to normal.”

Kroh tells his patients that they likely won’t be able to work a full day for at least a week following surgery. “It’s 2 to 3 days before they are even feeling 70%.”

5. Muscle Atrophy

Too much bed rest combined with too little exercise can weaken your muscles. That’s why surgeons like Kroh encourage patients to get out of bed and onto their feet as soon as possible after surgery.

“It’s very important to get up and move around,” Kroh says. That doesn’t mean go to the gym, though, even if you feel up to it (you probably won’t).

“You have to avoid lifting and straining to allow yourself to heal,” Kroh says.

People who have had abdominal surgery need to be extra cautious. Kroh advises against lifting anything over 15 pounds for at least two weeks after laparoscopic surgery, and six weeks after more invasive procedures.

Your surgeon might recommend working with a physical therapist to ease you back into everyday activities.

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