After Surgery

El Dorado County Post-Operative Care

After your surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area: the PACU (post anesthesia care unit), the ICU (intensive care unit) or you may return to the outpatient surgery area where you will be discharged. Wherever you recover, you will be closely monitored as the anesthesia wears off.

  • As the medication wears off, the area of your surgery may hurt or burn.
  • If your pain is not controlled, tell a nurse.
  • You might have patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), which allows you to control your own pain medication, or an epidural.
  • If you have nausea or vomiting after surgery, you can get medication to help you feel better.
  • You might have a mild sore throat if an airway or tube in your windpipe helped you breathe during surgery.
  • You may wake up with a small tube (catheter) in your bladder to drain urine. This is usually temporary and may be removed later.

Your Role in Recovery

You should become more active as soon as the doctor says it is okay. Rest when you feel tired. To speed recovery, you will be asked to breathe deeply and do some simple exercises. Be sure to follow your post-op instructions.

  • Deep breathing, coughing and using an incentive spirometer (IS), a breathing tool, can help clear your lungs, aid circulation and help prevent pneumonia. Depending on your surgery, you may try holding a pillow over the incision for support. A respiratory therapist will instruct you on the importance of the IS and how to use it.
  • Range of motion exercises and moving your legs while you are in bed will help your circulation and help prevent complications.
  • Walking will help your circulation as well as help your body functions return to normal. You will be assisted the first time you walk.
  • Healthy eating can help speed your recovery. If you are in the hospital, you may have an IV. Your diet will slowly move from liquids to solids. If you are recovering at home, start by eating small amounts of easy-to-digest foods. If you have given a special diet, be sure to follow it.
  • Pain management can actually speed your recovery. If your pain is not relieved, or gets worse, notify your doctor. Most oral pain medications take 20 minutes to take effect; do not wait until you are in pain to take them.
  • Constipation is a common side effect with some pain medications. Eating fruits and vegetables can help, as well as drinking extra fluids, unless you are instructed not to.

Incision and Dressing Care

When you go home, you may have a dressing over your incision. You will be shown how to care for the incision and the dressing. There are some things you can do to speed up the healing process:

  • Keep the incision clean and dry. You will be told when you can safely shower.
  • If the incision is on your leg, arm or head, you may be told to keep it elevated.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the incision area. This helps prevent infection.
  • If you have a drainage tube, follow the instructions that were given to you.
  • It's normal to run a slight fever and for the incision to be slightly red and swollen the day after surgery.

Call Your Surgeon If:

  • You have a fever over 100 degrees F.
  • Your incision becomes more red, swollen, or painful, or has a foul discharge.
  • Your incision bleeds a lot or opens.
  • You feel too sleepy, dizzy or groggy.
  • You have side effects from your medication such as nausea, vomiting, redness, a rash or itching.