6 Tips for Recovering from Surgery

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/16/2018

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How fast you recover from surgery depends on what kind of surgery you had and your overall health, according to the American Cancer Society. Learn more about recovering from surgery.

  1. Arrange transportation for an outpatient surgery

Even with a same-day outpatient surgery you may be put under general anesthesia, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). With general anesthesia you are completely unconscious. Your coordination and reflexes may be impaired for at least 24 hours. When you are released, don’t expect to drive yourself home. Arrange transportation with a friend, family member, Uber, Lyft or taxi.

  1. Guard against infection

Infection is a complication of surgery, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Most infections occur within the first 30 days that the surgical wound is healing. You can get infection from the hands of a caregiver or healthcare provider, from germs that are already on your skin and spread to the wound, from germs that are inside your body, germs that are in the air, or from infected surgical instruments. You are more likely to get an infection after surgery if you are a smoker, are overweight or obese, or have poorly controlled diabetes. Problems with your immune system also put you at greater risk of infection. You will probably need antibiotics if you get an infection following surgery. You may need additional surgery to clean your wound if it becomes infected. Signs of infection include pus, a bad smell coming from the wound, fever, redness, and pain.

  1. Be prepared for a urinary catheter

A Foley catheter may drain your urine into a bag during your surgery, according to the American Cancer Society. Since catheters can lead to infection, the doctor may remove the catheter soon after the surgery. If you have trouble urinating on your own, the doctor may reinsert a urinary catheter. Catheters are common for surgery on the prostate or genitals according U.S. National Library of Medicine. If you have an indwelling catheter, you should clean the area where the catheter exits the body with soap and water every day. You also should clean the area after every bowel movement to prevent infection.

  1. Talk to your doctor about pain control

You should expect to feel some pain after your surgery. According to the Cleveland Clinic, pain control can help quicken your recovery and may reduce your risk of developing complications. For example, if you are in too much pain to move, you may be more likely to develop pneumonia and blood clots. When your pain is under control, you may be able to walk around and practice deep breathing exercises that could speed your recovery from surgery. Your doctor may give you an intravenous patient-controlled analgesia which is an IV line in your arm. You will be able to push a button to release a dose of pain medicine. Your doctor may also give your oral pain medication including opioids (narcotics). Opioids carry a risk of addiction according to the Cleveland clinic, but can be used safely for a short period of time.

  1. If you’re in bed following surgery, change positions frequently

You are at risk for pressure sores if you are bedridden, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Pressure sores (also called bed sores) happen when skin is damaged by staying in one position for too long. Pressure sores often occur on ankles, back, elbows, heels, and hips. Pressure sores can result in life-threatening infections. The USNLM recommends changing position every two hours to avoid pressure sores.

  1. Be aware of surgery complications

Most surgery complications can be treated. According to Stanford healthcare, surgery complications include reaction to anesthesia, urinary retention (inability to empty the bladder) pulmonary complications and hemorrhage (bleeding). If you have been discharged to your home, keep in touch with your doctor to treat surgery complications as soon as possible.

Do you have questions about Medicare coverage of surgery? You can also schedule a phone call or request a personalized email from me by clicking the links below. If you’d like to compare plans yourself, click the Compare Plans button on the right side of this page.

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