After surgery

Pain control 

Feeling some pain after surgery is normal. Your health care team can recommend different ways to control your pain. You can try slow and deep breathing, massage, listening to music, and applying heat or cold. Supporting your surgical site with your hand or a small pillow when moving or coughing can help relieve discomfort. Because inflammation often causes pain, medicines that treat inflammation may become an important part of your pain management. 

Narcotic pain medicines can have negative side effects, which can lead to excessive drowsiness, confusion, delayed return of bowel function and constipation. These side effects can lead to a prolonged hospital stay so we avoid narcotics whenever possible. Your surgical and anesthesia teams will work with you on which combinations of medication will be best for you and your type of surgery. 

Keeping to a pain medication schedule is important to manage your pain. Your nurse may need to wake you up in the night to give you medicines to stay on schedule. We will use a pain scale to help you communicate the level of your discomfort. Your doctors and nurses want and need to know about pain that is not well controlled. If you are having pain, please tell someone. Do not worry about being a bother. 

Preventing complications 


Get up and move. Being active soon after surgery is an important part of your recovery. The more active you are after surgery, the faster you will recover. Walking improves breathing, increases circulation, gets your bowels working again, helps speed up the healing process and prevents blood clots and pneumonia. 

Day of surgery: Your goal is to sit on the side of your bed and walk the length of the hallway at least once. 

Each day after surgery: We expect you to increase your activity each day. This includes sitting up in a chair for every meal (at least 3 times). By the time you leave the hospital, you should be walking the length of the hallway at least six times. 

Deep breathing 

Patients recovering from surgery tend to take very shallow breaths. Without deep breathing and coughing, developing pneumonia is a concern. We will ask you to use an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths correctly. 

Prevent blood clots 

Following surgery, there is a risk of developing a blood clot. An immobile blood clot generally will not harm you, but if it should dislodge and move, it becomes dangerous. Your surgeon may prescribe a medication to prevent clotting – called an anticoagulant medication (aspirin, heparin, warfarin, enoxaparin sodium and rivaroxaban). You will be asked to wear a sequential compression device (SCD) to improve blood flow in your legs to prevent clot development. SCDs are sleeves that wrap around the lower legs and inflate with air one leg at a time to imitate the action that occurs in your veins when you are walking. Keep these on while in bed. 

Physical activity helps to keep your blood circulating normally and lowers the risk of blood clots. This is another excellent reason we want you to get up and begin walking soon after surgery. 

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