Type of Surgery

Recovering from Surgery – What to Expect

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Last updated: 04/29/2009

Recovering from Surgery – What to Expect
Surgery recovery is the sequence of steps that occurs from the point at which you awake from anesthesia to the point at which you are fully healed. The path of recovery is different in different patients and varies with the type of procedure. A tonsillectomy has a very short recovery and involves a lot of ice cream. A radical mastectomy can have a long physical, psychological and emotional period of recovery that is difficult to endure. Recovery from surgery is always easiest if you are prepared for recovery in advance. If you know what to expect in the days to weeks following surgery, you can put certain measures in place even before you go to the hospital for the procedure.
You should expect a certain amount of bruising and swelling after the surgery. For the most part there is nothing to worry, only that the area will look a lot worse than it actually is. Prepare yourself for the shock of seeing an area of your body bruised and misshapen. The swelling should last about 48 hours but the bruising could persist for a week to ten days. If bruising does not begin to decrease or change color in a few days after the surgery, you may have developed a hematoma. A hematoma is a collection of blood under the skin. Depending on its size, your surgeon may drain it or let it go away on its own.
Pain is the side effect of all surgeries. Understand that you may feel discomfort even if you are prescribed and take pain medications. A little bit of pain is to be expected after surgery but significant amounts of pain or a rapid increase in pain is not. If you feel you are experiencing much more pain than you should, consult your surgeon or other physician immediately.
Remember that you will not be up and running right after most surgeries, at least you should not be. Your surgical wound needs to heal; surfaces need to grow together again and healthy fibers need to make their way across incision lines. This goes for the skin but also deeper layers and structures. If your doctor recommends that you rest for a period of time, do it! You may feel healthy enough to engage in certain activities soon after surgery but you body may not be ready. If you cause an injury deep inside of you, it will require additional surgery to correct. Your discharge paperwork should have your activity level listed on it. If it does not, make sure to ask your surgeon or nurse how soon you can return to moderate and strenuous activities.
One bit of activity that is quite useful after surgery is to do some sort of leg movements. A serious complication of surgery is the development of blood clots in the legs. These clots form in the legs when the patient is not able to move them for long spans of time. In addition to swelling in the affected leg, the clot can dislodge and travel to the lung, potentially causing very serious problems. Simple calisthenics and isometric leg exercises are usually enough to prevent these clots from forming. Ask your doctor about leg exercises as part of your surgery recovery.

Last Updated: 04/29/2009

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