Having an operation - After surgery 

What happens after surgery 

General questions you may want to ask

  • Who should I call if I have any concerns once I'm home?
  • What should I be trying to do on my own – for example, going to the bathroom and getting out of bed?
  • Is there anything I should avoid doing?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • How much pain, bruising or swelling should I expect when I get home?
  • When and where will any stitches be removed?
  • Do I need to return to hospital or my GP for follow-up? If so, when will this be?

After surgery you’ll be moved to the recovery room where you’ll be told how the operation went.

You may feel hazy or groggy as you come round from the anaesthetic. A nurse will give you oxygen (through tubes or a mask) to help you feel better.

It's common to feel sick or vomit after you've been given anaesthesia. Your nurse may offer you medicine to help relieve this discomfort. You may also have a sore throat and dry mouth.

Your blood pressure will be taken via an automatic cuff that squeezes tightly at regular times. Your temperature will also be taken.

The outcome of your operation

It's important to find out how well your operation went. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Was the operation as successful as expected?
  • What effect has the operation had on my condition?
  • How will I expect to feel when I get home?
  • How long will it be before I'm back to normal?

Managing pain

Tell your nurse as soon as you start to feel any pain so they can give you painkilling medication as soon as possible to stop it getting worse (the medication can take 20 minutes to start working).

Avoiding blood clots

The sooner you start to move around, the better. Lying in bed for too long can cause some of your blood to pool in your legs. This puts you at risk of a blood clot.

If possible, doing some leg exercises can help prevent a blood clot. These may be as simple as flexing your knee or ankle and rotating your foot.

You may be given special support stockings to wear after surgery to help your blood circulation. Your nurse or doctor will explain how you should use these. Some people are given an injection to thin the blood slightly to help reduce the risk of clots.

Enhanced recovery

Research shows the earlier you get out of bed and start walking, eating and drinking after your operation, the better.

Your hospital may offer an enhanced recovery programme if you've had major surgery. This rehabilitation programme aims to get you back to full health quickly, which means you could go home sooner than traditionally expected.

See enhanced recovery for more information.

Plan for your days following surgery

It's important to arrange for appropriate care following your operation. For elderly people, it's important to arrange for suitable equipment and care. You shouldn't be afraid to ask for things that may help you, such as a wheelchair or walking frame.

Discharge

Before you leave hospital you may (depending on the type of operation you had) have an appointment with a physiotherapist, who will be able to advise you about any exercises you need to carry out.

You'll also be given advice about how to care for your wound, a dose of painkillers, and any equipment you may require, such as dressings, bandages, crutches and splints.

Each hospital will have its own policy and arrangements for discharging patients. Your discharge will be affected by:

  • how quickly your health improves while you're in hospital
  • what support you'll need after you return home

Read more about leaving hospital.

Transport home

You won’t be able to drive yourself home after surgery, instead you could ask someone to pick you up or take you home in a taxi. It's a good idea to have an adult available to help you for at least 24 hours after surgery.

What happens next?

See getting back to normal for information and advice about recovering from an operation at home.




Page last reviewed: 22/01/2013

Next review due: 22/01/2015

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