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Your Surgery Journey: Patient Guide

After your surgery

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​You and your family are an important part of the healthcare team. You can help yourself to feel better sooner and recover faster by being active, eating healthy, and drinking fluids. It’s also important to treat your pain and nausea so that you can move around more easily. This and doing breathing exercises help to keep your lungs healthy. 

If you or your family have any questions about your care or what you should be doing, you can use tools such as whiteboards to be su​​re you understand your care. The handouts from your healthcare team will also help you and help you reach your daily goals.

Be Active

Get out of bed as soon as you can and as often as possible.

  • You may find it hard to move around right after surgery but moving will help you heal faster.
  • Moving soon after surgery can also lower the chance of having problems such as blood clots or an infection in the lung (pneumonia).
  • In most cases, your healthcare team will ask you to get out of bed on the same day as your surgery.
  • Take short​ walks at least 3 times each day (after the day of your surgery) and try to add more activity each day.
  • Whenever possible sit in a chair to have your meals.

Eating and Drinking

Eating and drinking well after your surgery can help you feel better and heal faster.

  • ​Keep your energy up by eating and drinking soon after your surgery. Start with eating and drinking small amounts and gradually go back to your​ usual eating and drinking. Only eat as much as you feel comfortable eating.
  • When you’re not getting enough nutrition from food, drink nutritional supplements several times a day (such as Ensure Protein Max or Boost High Protein). Think of these like a medicine that gives you extra protein and energy to help you heal.
  • Drink other fluids (water, herbal tea, juice) to make sure your body gets enough water to help you recover from surgery.
  • Your intravenous​ (IV) will be removed when you are able to drink enough fluid on your own. You’ll find it easier and more comfortable to move and walk without an IV.
  • Your weight will be checked every day to see if your body is holding on to extra fluid (called fluid retention).
  • Chew gum or suck on hard candies as this may help get your bowels moving again after surgery. This will help to prevent constipation. 

Pain and Nausea

You may feel nausea (sick to your stomach) and pain after your surgery. This is not unusual. Make sure your pain and nausea are controlled so you can feel better, move around, and recover faster.

  • Some commonly used pain medicines (opioids) have side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, and constipation (trouble having a bowel movement). These side effects can make you feel worse and lead to longer hospital stays.
  • Your healthcare team will work with you to keep your pain and nausea under control by offering you regular pain and nausea medicine.
  • The ERAS Care Pathway uses a combination of medicines to control your pain. You can expect to have some pain after surgery, even when you take pain medicine. This usually gets less over time.
  • The nurses will ask you to rate your pain using a pain scale from 0 to 10. Having no pain at all is a 0 and 1​0 is the worst pain you can imagine. Asking you to rate your pain will help your healthcare team know how much pain you are having and how it can best be treated.
  • Good pain and nausea control helps your recovery so you can move around, eat and drink, feel relaxed, and sleep well. Let your nurse know if your pain or nausea makes it hard to move or eat.

Current as of: October 7, 2022

Author: Surgery Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services