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What to Expect After Surgery

Right after surgery, you will be tak­en to the post anes­the­sia care unit (PACU) or direct­ly to the inten­sive care unit where nurs­es will take care of you and watch you close­ly. The sur­geon will dis­cuss with your fam­i­ly how the pro­ce­dure went. A nurse will check your tem­per­a­ture, blood pres­sure and pulse often, look at your ban­dages, reg­u­late your IV and give you pain med­ica­tion, as you need it. 

What do I need to tell the PACU nurse?
Please tell the nurse if you are hav­ing pain. The nurse will ask you to give your pain a num­ber on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 mean­ing you have no pain, and 10 you have the worst pain imag­in­able. The nurse will check your pain and con­tin­ue to help you mange it while keep­ing you safe, until you are as com­fort­able as possible.

Some patients feel very sick to their stom­ach (nau­sea). It is impor­tant to tell your nurse about it right away, so it can be treat­ed with med­ica­tion. If you have had prob­lems with nau­sea in the past, the anes­the­sia care provider knows this before surgery.

What does effec­tive pain treat­ment mean?
Effec­tive treat­ment of pain will help you get bet­ter faster, help you go home soon­er and, hope­ful­ly, go back to your nor­mal activ­i­ties. Peo­ple can have dif­fer­ent pain from oth­ers even when they have the same surgery. It is impor­tant to talk about how to con­trol your pain with your doc­tor before your surgery. Let the doc­tors know what type of ways you have used in the past to help con­trol your pain. Pain is part of the surgery pro­ce­dure and is nor­mal and expect­ed for you to have some pain after cer­tain pro­ce­dures. Your nurse will part­ner with you to keep you as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble while keep­ing you safe dur­ing the crit­i­cal time peri­od after anes­the­sia. Your doc­tor and anes­the­si­ol­o­gist will dis­cuss options and make a plan with you. 


If my pain is under con­trol, what else do I need to know?
When your pain is tol­er­a­ble, your body can focus on the most impor­tant work: heal­ing. Take your med­ica­tion as soon as you need it. This is not the time to test to see how much pain you can stand.

What oth­er feel­ings may I expe­ri­ence after surgery?
You may feel sleepy, dizzy and/​or for­get­ful from the med­ica­tion giv­en to you dur­ing your surgery. 


When will I see my fam­i­ly after surgery?
Depend­ing on the facil­i­ty you are at will deter­mine vis­i­ta­tion in the PACU. Check with the nurs­ing staff to find out if your fam­i­ly will be allowed to vis­it you.

What type of infor­ma­tion do I need to know before going home?
IF you are going home that same day, you will be giv­en print­ed dis­charge instruc­tions for your care at home. The nurs­ing staff will go over all the infor­ma­tion with you and a fam­i­ly mem­ber or friend. Your instruc­tions will include: 

  • Activ­i­ty restrictions
  • Diet
  • Pain med­ica­tion
  • Fol­low up instruc­tions with your surgeon
  • Signs to watch for if you need to call the doctor
  • You might be giv­en a pre­scrip­tion depend­ing on your doc­tor’s orders and what kind of surgery you had done. 


How long will it take me to feel nor­mal again?
Be pre­pared at home to con­tin­ue your recov­ery. Plan to take it easy for a few days until you feel back to nor­mal. Patients often feel minor effects fol­low­ing surgery due to anes­the­sia, which might include: 

  • Being very tired
  • Mus­cle aches
  • A sore throat
  • Dizzi­ness
  • Headaches

Some­times patients can feel very sick to their stom­ach and may throw up. These side effects usu­al­ly go away quick­ly in the first few hours after surgery, but it can take sev­er­al days before they are com­plete­ly gone. Due to feel­ing tired or hav­ing some dis­com­fort, most patients do not feel up to their nor­mal activ­i­ties for sev­er­al days. 


Can I dri­ve myself home? 

Patients who have outpatient/​same day surgery must have some­one dri­ve them home and stay with for 24 hours fol­low­ing their surgery. The med­ica­tions you were give dur­ing your surgery may affect your mem­o­ry and men­tal judg­ment for the next 24 hours. Dur­ing that time frame, do not use alco­holic bev­er­ages and tobac­co prod­ucts. It is also advised for you not to make any impor­tant busi­ness or per­son­al deci­sions and do not use machin­ery or elec­tri­cal equipment.