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After care

You play an active role in the speed and success of your surgical recovery. Please keep the following information in mind:

Diet. Food may be hard to digest after surgery. You will be given specific instructions, but generally start with clear liquids and slowly return to solid foods as you are able. Drink at least six glasses of water a day (unless told otherwise). Avoid fatty foods and eat small portions more often.

Activity. It is important to move around and improve circulation following surgery. Before surgery or while in surgery, you may have cuffs put on your lower legs that inflate and deflate to improve your circulation. This will help prevent blood clots. It is also important to do ankle pumps, move your legs and walk. Do not try to get out of bed without help.

Breathing. It is important to exercise your lungs to prevent pneumonia. Coughing and taking slow, deep breaths can help this. If you have an incision in your abdomen or chest, hold a pillow or folded blanket over it while doing this to lessen the pain.

Pain. It is important to have good pain control so you can breathe and move. You will be given pain medication to help with this. Tell your nurse or doctor if it is not working or you are having side effects. Treat your pain before it is severe, otherwise it is harder to get under control. Do not drive, use heavy equipment, drink alcohol or sign important documents while taking pain medication. Other methods of pain control (including ice, heat, repositioning and relaxation) may help.

Medications. Your doctor will decide when and which medications you may take (including herbs, vitamins and supplements). Pain medications may cause constipation. Drink plenty of fluids and increase activity to prevent this.

Care of your incision. Your incision may have staples, stitches (visible that need removing or under the skin that dissolve), steri-strips, surgical glue or a combination of the above. You may or may not have a dressing in place. Follow your discharge instructions and watch for any signs of infection, such as:

  • Increasing pain, swelling or bleeding (initially a small amount is expected).
  • Redness or red streaks, drainage, or warm to the touch.
  • Fever that stays over 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

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