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Learning About What to Expect at Home After Surgery

What do you need to know when you leave the hospital after surgery?

Each person recovers from surgery at a different pace. Your discharge plan will help you leave the hospital safely. It will outline the care you need. And it will give you information about the things you'll need to do at home.

Make sure you get your plan in writing. Look for information on:

  • What your medicines are and how to take them.
  • When you need to see the doctor again or get any follow-up tests.
  • How and when to change bandages and dressings.
  • How active you can be. This may include physiotherapy.
  • How to prevent falls.
  • What you can eat and can't eat.

What do you need to know about taking medicines?

Your doctor will talk with you about restarting your medicines. He or she will also tell you about taking any new medicines.

  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again.
  • If your doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
  • If you aren't taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

How can you take care of your incision?

If you have a cut (incision), follow your doctor's instructions to care for it. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:

  • You will have a dressing over the cut. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it.
    • Change the bandage every day.
    • If you have strips of tape on the cut, leave them on for a week or until they fall off.
    • If you have stitches or staples, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
    • If you have skin glue (liquid stitches) on the cut, leave it on until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Don't swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it's okay.

When can you be active again?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself after surgery is to find ways to move. When you move as much as possible, even in bed, you are helping your body heal.

Here are some tips:

  • Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until you feel better.
  • Taking short walks is a good way to help your body heal.
  • Rest when you feel tired.

Your doctor may give you instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving and going back to work.

What do you need to know about eating?

If your doctor told you when you can start eating and what foods you can eat, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:

  • You can eat your normal diet when you feel well. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods. These include plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your bowel movements aren't regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fibre, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

What do you do if you have infection or pain?

If you have signs of infection, call your doctor or nurse call line. These signs include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
  • Red streaks leading from the incision.
  • Pus draining from the incision.
  • A fever.

Also call your doctor or nurse call line if you have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.

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.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.