After surgery - Having an operation (surgery)

After surgery, you'll be moved back to the ward (after local anaesthetic) or a recovery room (after general anaesthetic or epidural), where you'll be told how the operation went.

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

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

Your blood pressure will be taken regularly. This will either be done by a nurse or by using 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 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?

Coping with pain

You'll always have some pain after having surgery. Tell your nurse as soon as you start to feel any pain so they can give you painkilling medication as soon as possible.

This will stop it getting worse (medication can take 20 minutes to start working) and improve it.

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 knees or ankles and rotating your feet.

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 have had major surgery. This rehabilitation programme aims to get you back to full health quickly.

Plan for your days after surgery

It's important to arrange for appropriate care after your operation. For older 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. They'll 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, any equipment you may require, such as dressings, bandages, crutches and splints, and maybe a dose of painkillers.

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

You may want to ask some questions before you leave hospital, such as:

  • 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?

Read more about leaving hospital.

Transport home

You won't usually 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 having a general anaesthetic or epidural.

Page last reviewed: 07/02/2018
Next review due: 07/02/2021