Surgery - Symptoms-Questions

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Surgery - Symptoms-Questions

Is this your symptom?

  • Concerns or questions about symptoms that occur after surgery (post-op).
  • Common symptoms are pain and swelling at the incision site.
  • Other common symptoms are mild dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea (feeling sick to the stomach).
  • Most post-op problems occur within the first 4 weeks after surgery.

Key Points

  • Follow all of your post-op instructions carefully. This will help prevent problems after surgery.
  • It is common for people to have some symptoms after surgery.
  • Mild or moderate pain and swelling at the incision site are common. These symptoms usually peak 2 to 3 days after surgery and then get better.
  • Many people also feel a little dizzy, sleepy, or drowsy. Nausea (feeling sick to stomach), and vomiting (throwing up) are also common. These symptoms usually last less than 24 hours.
  • You can treat mild post-op symptoms with self-care at home.

Problems after Surgery

More common problems that may occur after surgery include:

  • Anesthesia Side Effects: Anesthesia (medicine used to put you asleep during surgery) causes side effects in many people. Common side effects are dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms usually get better within 24 hours.
  • Infections: The most common post-op infection is a surgical wound infection. Symptoms are wound pain or swelling that worsen, spreading redness or red streaks, and pus. Other common infections are pneumonia and urinary tract infection. All post-op patients with fever should call or see a doctor right away. Fever can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • Constipation: Many factors can cause constipation after surgery. These include anesthesia, pain medicine, poor fluid intake, and decreased activity.
  • Dehydration: Vomiting and not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration.
  • DVT (Deep vein thrombosis): A DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein. The most common place is the lower leg or thigh. All people are at risk for DVT after surgery. The main symptoms are pain in the calf or thigh and leg swelling.

Other problems include:

  • Bowel blockage: This mainly occurs with abdomen (belly) surgery.
  • Post-epidural headache
  • Surgical wound hematoma
  • Surgical wound opens up

Prevention

  • Follow your post-op instructions carefully. This will help prevent post-op problems.
  • Keep your wound clean and dry.
  • Follow your activity limits. Avoid any vigorous activity or heavy lifting for 4 weeks after surgery.
  • For most surgeries, you can start light exercise (walking on a level surface) the day after surgery. Walking and light exercise lowers the chance of blood clots and constipation.
  • Protect the wound from injury during the month after surgery. At one week after surgery, the tissue strength of the incision is only 10% of normal. At one month after surgery, it is only 50%.
  • Do not smoke for the first month after surgery. Smoking slows wound healing.

Driving After Surgery

Follow the instructions your surgeon gave you. Do not drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicine (such as Vicodin). In general, it is safe to start driving after the following time periods:

  • After any procedure with IV sedation/medicine: 12 hours
  • After general anesthesia: 24 hours
  • After minor surgery (biopsy, vasectomy): 2 days
  • After appendectomy, hernia repair, laparoscopic cholecystectomy: 1 week
  • After laparotomy, hysterectomy, C-section; prostate, bowel or other major surgery: 3 weeks
  • After cardiac bypass surgery, back surgery: 4 weeks

When to Call for Surgery - Symptoms-Questions

Call 911 Now

  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Severe pain that is not better after pain medicines
  • Severe headache and after spinal (epidural) anesthesia
  • Fever
  • Vomiting lasts more than 4 hours
  • Vomiting and stomach looks more swollen than normal
  • You feel dehydrated (dizzy, dry mouth, very thirsty)
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Mild to moderate pain that is not better after pain medicines
  • Headache and after spinal (epidural) anesthesia
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Pain and other mild symptoms after surgery
  • Questions about after surgery

Home Care Advice

General Care Advice after Surgery

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Follow your post-op instructions carefully. This will help prevent problems after surgery.
    • You can treat mild post-op symptoms at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Follow Your Surgeon's Instructions:
    • Carefully follow all the instructions your surgeon gave you.
    • If the general care advice below is different, follow your surgeon's instructions instead.
  3. Changing a Dressing:
    • Change the wound dressing if it gets wet or dirty.
    • Follow the dressing directions your surgeon gave you.
    • A dressing that works well is a Telfa dressing covered by gauze. Telfa is a dressing that does not stick to the skin. You can buy it at the drugstore. Place a piece of Telfa on the wound and cover it with a gauze pad.
    • Keep the dressing in place in the same way the surgeon did (such as tape or ace wrap).
    • In most cases, a dressing is no longer needed when the edges of the wound close (usually 48 hours). However, your surgeon may instruct you leave the dressing on longer. This can help protect the wound and catch any drainage.
  4. Keep Incision Clean and Dry:
    • Keep the incision dry for first 24 hours after surgery (use a sponge bath).
    • Your surgeon will tell you when you can remove your dressing. When the dressing is removed, you can shower. Avoid water pressure directly on the incision. Pat the incision area dry with a clean towel.
    • Put an antibiotic ointment (Polysporin or Bacitracin) on the wound 3 times a day. You can buy this at the store without a prescription. This helps prevent infection and limits scarring.
    • Do not bathe or swim for 2 weeks (or whenever the surgeon says it is ok).
  5. Local Cold for Pain and Swelling:
    • Use cold pack for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
    • Cold helps reduce pain and swelling.
    • Apply the cold pack (or an ice bag wrapped in a towel) to the incision area for 15 minutes.
    • Repeat this once an hour as needed.
  6. Clear Liquids for Nausea and Vomiting:
    • Drink clear fluids in small amounts for 8 hours after surgery.
    • Sip water or sports drinks (like Gatorade or Powerade).
    • You can also drink half-strength, flat lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.
    • Drink small amounts (1 tablespoon) every 5 minutes.
    • After 4 hours without vomiting, you can increase the amount you drink.
  7. Dizziness and Drowsiness:
    • Anesthesia and IV medicines given during surgery can cause dizziness and drowsiness.
    • These symptoms usually get better and go away within 12 to 24 hours after surgery.
    • When getting out of bed, sit up for a few minutes before you stand up.
    • Sit down or lie down if you feel dizzy.
    • Make sure you have someone with you the first 24 hours after surgery.
  8. Do Not Smoke:
    • Do not smoke during the first month after surgery.
    • Smoking slows wound healing.
  9. Activity after Surgery:
    • Follow the activity instructions your surgeon gave you.
    • For most surgeries, you can start light exercise (walking on a level surface) the day after surgery. Walking and light exercise lowers the chance of blood clots and constipation.
    • Avoid any vigorous activity or heavy lifting for 4 weeks after surgery.
  10. What to Expect:
    • Pain and swelling: Incision pain and swelling are often worst on day 2 and 3 after surgery. The pain should slowly get better during the next 1 to 2 weeks. Mild itching is common as the incision heals.
    • Redness: Mild redness along the incision is common. It should gradually get better and go away. Call your doctor if the red area spreads (gets larger) or red streaks occur. These could be signs of an infection.
    • Drainage: Small amounts of clear drainage or a few drops of blood from the incision are common in the first few days. Call your doctor if the drainage increases, becomes cloudy (pus), or smells bad. These could be signs of an infection.
    • Dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea: These symptoms usually get better and go away within 12 to 24 hours after surgery.
  11. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe pain
    • Fever
    • Vomiting lasts more than 4 hours
    • Signs of dehydration
    • Wound looks infected (spreading redness, streaks, or drainage)
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Over-the-Counter Pain Medicines

  1. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Last Reviewed: 9/18/2019 1:00:31 AM
Last Updated: 3/14/2019 1:00:28 AM

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