Adhesions: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Picture of adhesions on the small intestine
You have had surgery to remove adhesions. Adhesions are scar tissue that forms between two structures or organs inside the body that are not normally connected to each other. You may also have had part of your small or large intestine taken out.

You're likely to feel weak and tired, and you may feel nauseated. It's common to have some pain in your belly and around your incision. The pain should steadily get better over the next few weeks. You may be able to return to normal activities after 2 to 4 weeks. Your bowel movements may not be regular for several weeks. Also, you may have some blood in your stool.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take a few days or weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the cut (incision) dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.

Diet

  • You may not have much appetite after the surgery. But try to eat a healthy diet. Your doctor will tell you about any foods you should not eat.
  • Eat a low-fibre diet for several weeks after surgery. Eat many small meals throughout the day. Add high-fibre foods a little at a time.
  • Eat yogurt. It puts good bacteria into your colon and may help prevent diarrhea.
  • You may need to take vitamins that contain sodium and potassium. Your doctor will tell you whether you should take any vitamins or other natural health products.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your doctor recommends or gives you a stool softener for constipation, take it as directed.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • Your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding through your dressing.
  • You are vomiting.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the incision.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your bowel movements haven't returned to normal.
  • You have loose stitches.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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