Post Operative Care

Post Operative care

In the recovery room

Immediately after your operation you will be looked after in the recovery room.  This is right next to the operating theatre and where you will wake up from your operation.  The recovery room can be quite busy and noisy,  there is a lot of coming and going as patients wake up and move on to the ward.  As you and other patients wake up you may find things a little confusing for a minute or two but don't worry, you will have your own nurse to look after and reassure you as you wake up.  As you wake up from your anaesthetic you will become aware of your operation and your nurse will ask you if you have any pain.  Operations almost always cause some discomfort so your nurse will offer you painkillers to make you more comfortable.  Your nurse will measure your pulse and blood pressure to make sure that you are recovering smoothly.

Wounds and Drains

I will have advised you before your operation what sort of wound and dressing to expect and if you will need to have a drain tube placed in your wound.  Wounds are usually closed using a very thin dissolving stitch under your skin that you cannot see.  The skin is then sealed with medical superglue.  The glue seals your skin at a microscopic level and prevents any skin bacteria getting into your wound.  Almost all skin infections are caused by bacteria which normally live on your skin getting into your wound, the skin glue prevents this.  The glue dressing also means that you can have a shower after your surgery without risk of infection.  

A drain is used if there is any chance of fluid or blood gathering in your wound.  The drain is just a plastic tube with small holes in it.  This allows the fluid to drain out of your wound and into a collecting system.  Drains are uncomfortable but they control swelling and bruising.  I will ask your nurse to remove your drain as soon as it is no longer required.

Eating and Drinking

Sometimes surgery or the drugs used for your anaesthetic and pain relief can make you feel quite sick.  If this does happen to you try not to worry let your nurse know and she will be able to give you something to get rid of the feeling of nausea.   You should only have something to eat and drink when you feel like it.  There is no need to eat and drink on the day of your surgery if you don't want to.  In the following days your appetite will return and your bowels will start to work normally soon after. 

Passing urine and opening your bowels

You will not have had anything to eat or drink before your surgery and perhaps not very much afterwards.  So dont be surprised if your bowels don't work.  In the following days your bowels will start to wake up and eventually your bowels will get back to normal.  

If you have had an operation on your bowel you may not even pass any wind for a day or two.  Usually things will start to work with you passing wind and then a more proper bowel motion.  Your first bowel motion may not be normal and may have blood in it at first.  

Sometimes after surgery you may find it quite difficult to pass urine.  During your operation your bladder can fill up and sometimes it can get so full that you can't relax to empty it.  If this is the case your nurse will scan your bladder and if it is very full offer to empty your bladder by placing a catheter.  This is briefly uncomfortable but the relief of having your bladder empty if it has been over full is immense.  Problems passing water are much more common in older men.  

The first day

The day after your operation things will start to get back to normal and you will start to feel a bit more like  yourself.  Sometimes it can feel quite like hard work.  You will want to get up and out of bed but you will feel your wounds are uncomfortable when you move.  Some of the painkillers that you were given by injection during your surgery will have worn off and these will need to be replaced by drugs which you can take by mouth.  It is important that you move around and that you are able to take a deep breath to keep your lungs clear.  As you recover during the day you will be able to start to plan for the days ahead and your discharge home.  Hopefully any assistance you might need to recover at home will have been planned  during our pre-operative assessment if not now is the time to discuss this with your nurse.


I will visit you every day that you are in the hospital and will help you to plan your discharge.  Going home can feel like a big step after you have had an operation and you may be surprised how tired and washed out you feel.  This is usually at its worst on the second post operative day and then gets better quite quickly after that.

Please make sure that you have discussed all of you needs with your nurse before you go home.

Once you are at home

Once you get home you should expect to feel a little better day on day.  It is quite normal to feel that you might want to have a lie down and rest every now and then and you might need to have a proper sleep in the afternoon.  It takes a surprising amount of energy to heal your wounds and get your body back to normal.  After major surgery the amount of energy used every day, just to get better,  is about the same as running five miles.  So don't be surprised if you feel a little tired.  

What if things are not getting better?  If you feel something is wrong you must contact either;

  • The ward that you were discharged from
  • Your own GP 
  • or The East Preston Clinic.

Things to look out for;

Your wound pain should gradually get better.  If it is getting worse then get in touch.  Likewise if you find that your wound is swelling and increasing is size or if it has become very hot and there is redness of you skin spreading from your wound.  

If you develop a chest infection with a cough and green sputum you must get in touch. 

If you have unexplained pain in the backs of your calfs 

If you have constipation or diarrhoea or if you have any problmes passing your urine.

These sort of complications are uncommon but they can and do occur and when they do it is important that you let someone know.

Getting back to work

Getting back to work is an important part of your recovery.  The length of time until you are able to work will depend on your age and general fitness and on the nature of your surgery.  Generally for opeartions that involve an open incision into the abdomen you might expect a recovery period of up to 6 weeks.  For more minor surgery such as routine groin hernia surgery and Laparoscopic surgery you might expect to return to work after 2 weeks.


Follow up

We will arrange a clinic appointment following your surgery.  This will usually be about 6 weeks after your discharge.  If you are waiting for the results of a pathology specimen your clinic appoinment will be 2 weeks after your surgery.



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Thank you very much for the kindness and consideration that you have shown me during my treatment

- Patricia Harvey