After your surgery
Waking up after your operation can sometimes feel frightening, so it can help to know a little about what to expect. It may also prepare your family and friends if they decide to visit you after the operation.
Initially you will probably feel quite drowsy. Later on you may not remember much about the first hour or two after you woke up. A nurse will take your blood pressure regularly and you might be aware of the blood pressure cuff tightening on your arm every so often.
You may also have some tubes attached to your body. Below is a list of the most common types of tubes to have following an operation, but not everyone will need all of these:
A drip (intravenous infusion) will be used to give you fluids until you are able to eat and drink normally. This may only be for a few hours or a few days, depending on the operation you’ve had.
You may have a drainage tube in your wound to drain excess fluid into a small bottle. This is usually removed after a few days.
A small tube (catheter) may be put into your bladder so that urine is drained into a collection bag. The catheter will be removed when you become more mobile.
You may have some pain after surgery, but you will be given painkillers to reduce this. Good pain control will help you to get up and about as soon as possible.
Feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting)
You may feel sick and should be given anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs to help control this. If you still have pain or feel sick, tell the nurse looking after you.
You should be able to get up and about fairly soon after your operation and the ward staff will help you with this. Moving around will help you recover more quickly and help reduce the risk of complications. Breathing and leg exercises can also help reduce the risk of problems that can happen after surgery, such as chest infections and blood clots. Your nurse or physiotherapist will teach you these exercises. You may also be given medication to help prevent blood clots forming in the first few days after your surgery. This is known as an anti-coagulant. It is given as an injection into the tissues just under the skin; usually in your tummy.
The wound is closed using clips or stitches. These are usually removed after you go home by a practice nurse at your GP surgery. Some surgeons use dissolving stitches that don’t need to be removed. These will dissolve completely when the area is healed. You may be given antibiotics to help prevent wound infection.
Your scar may feel itchy at first. It will look like a red line, which may feel a bit lumpy. This will gradually fade over time. It's important to let your doctor know straight away if your wound becomes hot, painful or begins to bleed or leak any fluids.
In the first few days after your operation, you may need some help to wash and go to the toilet. Once you are moving about freely, you’ll probably be able to manage these activities for yourself.
Your recovery period will vary depending on the extent of your surgery. You’ll find more specific information about recovery by reading more about your type of cancer.