What to Expect at Home After Surgery: Care Instructions

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After surgery, you'll get information on what you need to do at home. This may include instructions about medicines, when and how to change bandages, and what to do if you have pain or an infection. It may cover how active you can be. And it may also tell you what you can eat and drink and what you should try to avoid.

How can you care for yourself after surgery?

Here are some tips for caring for yourself after surgery. But be sure to follow any instructions your doctor gives you.

Take medicine as directed.

  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, talk to your doctor before you start taking them again.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine, take it exactly as directed.
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter pain medicine.

Care for your cut (incision).

  • Change the bandage daily or more often if needed.
  • Gently wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
  • Don't take a bath or swim until your doctor says it's okay.

Move carefully.

  • Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can exercise and do other activities.
  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Ask your doctor when it's okay to have sex.

Eat and drink as directed.

  • When you feel like eating, start with small amounts of food.
  • You can eat your normal diet, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood soaks through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have nausea or vomiting that gets worse or won't stop.
  • You are too sick to your stomach to drink any fluids.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.