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
- 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
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.