Anorectal Abscess Surgery: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Most of the pain that was caused by your abscess will probably go away right after surgery. But you may have some mild pain in your anal area from the incision for several days after the surgery. Most people can go back to work or their normal routine 1 or 2 days after surgery. It will probably take about 2 to 3 weeks for your abscess to completely heal.

Most people get better without any problems. But sometimes a tunnel can form between the old abscess and the outside of the body. This is called a fistula. Your doctor will check for this about 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. If you develop a fistula, the doctor will do surgery to repair the fistula.

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.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Most people are able to return to work 1 or 2 days after surgery.
  • You may shower. Let water run over the abscess area. This will help the abscess heal. Pat your anal area dry with a towel when you are done.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • Eat a low-fibre diet for a couple days or as your doctor suggests. It is best to eat many small meals throughout the day. Add high-fibre foods a little at a time.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

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 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 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.

Incision care

  • Wash your anal 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.
  • After a bowel movement, use a baby wipe or take a shower or sitz bath to gently clean the anal area.
  • If your doctor put gauze in your abscess during surgery, follow his or her instructions about when to remove it.

Other instructions

  • Place a maxi pad or gauze in your underwear to absorb drainage from your abscess while it heals.
  • Sit in 8 to 10 centimetres of warm water (sitz bath) for 15 to 20 minutes 3 times a day. Do this as long as you have pain in your anal area.
  • Apply ice several times a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Support your feet with a small step stool when you sit on the toilet. This helps flex your hips and places your pelvis in a squatting position. This can make bowel movements easier after surgery.
  • Try lying on your stomach with a pillow under your hips to decrease swelling.

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 sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have severe belly pain.

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

  • You have bleeding from your anus that soaks 2 or more large gauze pads.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take your pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have stool that leaks from your anus, or you cannot control when you have a bowel movement.

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

  • You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

Where can you learn more?

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

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