Preparing for Surgery
- You must not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. No morning coffee, and please do not chew gum. If you are having colon surgery, do bring chewing gum with you to the hospital. Chewing gum after surgery stimulates normal bowel function, and can help speed your recovery.
- Stop smoking at least 2 weeks before surgery. This makes anesthesia much easier and decreases the possibility of complications.
- Do not take Aspirin, Ibuprophin, Aleve, or medicine that contains aspirin for two weeks before surgery, unless instructed by your surgeon. Aspirin thins the blood and can cause bleeding.
- If you use a blood thinner such as Coumadin or Plavix, please discuss with your surgeon when to stop and restart your medication.
- If you have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine, please bring it with you. You can then use it while recovering from anesthesia.
- You may be scheduled to attend an anesthesia clinic a few days before your operation, depending on the magnitude of the operation and your general health.
- Do not shave the site of your operation yourself, as this can lead to infection.
- It is best to leave all valuables at home or with the person accompanying you.
- Do not wear any make-up, nail polish or jewelry to the surgery center.
- Plan Ahead: You will need someone to drive you to and from the surgery center or hospital. You cannot drive yourself. A cab may be a reasonable option if family or friends are not available. You may wish to buy groceries and do chores ahead of time, as well as arrange for childcare and possible help during recovery.
- Breastfeeding mothers may need to consult a lactation consultant prior to undergoing surgery. Please ask our office for assistance, or use the lactation consultants listed under Helpful Links
- Ice bags are helpful used intermittently for the first 24 hours after surgery. This decreases bruising, swelling and pain.
- After 24 hours, heat in the form of a heating pad or a hot water bottle is very soothing. Be very careful not to burn yourself.
- Remove gauze dressings two days after surgery, and replace them as needed. Leave clear plastic dressings, skin glue, and/or Steri-Strips on until you come back into the office.
- You may shower and gently wash your wound with soap and water starting two days after surgery. It is okay to wash directly on Steri-Strips, skin glue, and clear plastic dressings. Do not soak in a bath tub or hot tub for 4 weeks unless directed otherwise.
- Following rectal surgery, sitz baths (soaking in warm water) four or more times a day are very helpful. It is ok to use a shower, and hand held sprayers are particularly helpful.
- Numbness around the incision, and itching are very normal parts of the healing process and often improve after a few weeks. Avoid scratching your wound.
- You may feel a hard ridge under you incision. This is where tissues are healing and will slowly disappear.
Your body is using all available energy to heal your wound. It is very normal to feel tired the first few weeks following surgery. Pamper yourself and take a nap during the day, but then continue to be active the rest of the day. Normal activity will help restore your energy. It may take as long as six to eight weeks following major surgery to feel normal again. After Laparoscopic Surgery, many people feel normal by one or two weeks.
(Some surgery such as skin grafts require strict bed rest, and specific instructions will be given. Please ask if you have any questions.)
- Generally the best strategy after surgery is to put your clothes on and be up and about as much as possible. Light exercise, such as walking, is very helpful. Try to walk around the equivalent of a city block one or two times daily. A strategy that we recommend is to take a trip to a grocery store. Push a cart up and down the aisles to give yourself some support to hang on to. You don't have to buy anything, it is the walking that is important. The more you are up, the quicker you will feel better. When you get tired, then take a nap. If you spend all of your home recovery in bed, it will take much longer to recover.
- Deep breathing and coughing helps expand the lungs and prevent pneumonia. Firmly holding a pillow or hand over your wound will make this easier.
- Following open abdominal surgery, limit lifting to 15 lbs. usually for 6 weeks, or until released by your surgeon.
- After hernia surgery, follow the specific activity instructions you will be given. Normal limits are lifting no more than 15 lbs for 6 weeks. Please ask if you have any questions.
- Following most Laparoscopic Surgery, except hernia repair, you can return to normal activity within 1 to 2 weeks.
- No driving for at least two weeks following major surgery, or while using pain medication.
- Sports are generally not recommended for four to six weeks. Please ask for specific limitations.
- You may resume sexual relations two to four weeks after major surgery, and sooner for smaller procedures.
- You may return to hard physical work in six to eight weeks, and to office work in one to two weeks following major surgery, and sooner for smaller procedures. Please discuss your particular return with your surgeon.
- Mild to moderate discomfort is normal following surgery. This will gradually improve in a few days.
- Use your prescribed medicine. You may also use a heating pad or take a hot shower.
- If something more is needed you may use Aleve, or similar medications per their package instructions, in addition to your prescribed medication. Do Not use Aspirin.
- Avoid Tylenol if you are using Vicodin, Percocet or other medications which already contain Tylenol.
- If you are in severe pain, please call the office. This may indicate a problem, or perhaps you will need something stronger.
- Shoulder pain after laparoscopic surgery can be relieved by raising your hips on pillows so that they are higher than your shoulders. This allows the CO2 gas that is causing the pain to move away from your diaphragm. The gas is usually absorbed and not a problem in 1 - 2 days.
It is common to have changes in bowel function, particularly after abdominal surgery. You may have bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or gas pains. All of this will resolve as you return to your normal diet and activity, and stop using pain medication.
A well balanced diet will help speed your recovery. Avoid spicy or gas forming foods.
To prevent constipation, make sure to drink at least two quarts of fluid per day. Eat fresh vegetables and fruit, bran cereal and juice (including prune juice.) Limit the use of pain medication, which can cause constipation. Milk of Magnesia or MiraLax (available in any grocery store) may also be helpful. Use as directed on the bottle. If you do not see improvement in one to two days, call the office.
If you develop diarrhea, drink at least two quarts of fluid daily. Imodium or Kaopectate may also be helpful. For nausea or vomiting, limit your diet to bananas, rice, applesauce and tea. If you do not see improvement in one to two days, call the office.
If you develop trouble urinating, try going in a warm shower or bath. If you are still not able to go, contact us immediately.
Call the office immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
- increased pain, redness or drainage from the incision
- temperature over 101 degrees F
- nausea, vomiting
- inability to urinate