What happens after surgery?

After a pelvic exenteration operation, you’ll be in an intensive care or high-dependency unit for the first few days, and will probably be in hospital for about 2–3 weeks.

When you wake up after the operation, you will have dressings on your tummy. You may also have:

  • A drip going into a vein in your arm or neck (intravenous infusion). This will give you food and fluids until you are able to eat and drink again. It may also be used to give you painkillers.
  • A fine tube going into your back (epidural). This may be used to give you drugs that numb the nerves and stop you feeling sore.
  • A fine tube that passes down your nose, into your stomach or small intestine. This is called a nasogastric tube and it allows any fluids in the stomach to be removed so you don't feel sick. You may need this for a few days.
  • One or more drainage tubes coming from your wound to collect any extra fluid or blood. These will be removed when the amount of fluid draining has reduced.
  • A bag covering your colostomy.
  • A bag covering your urostomy or a tube coming from your urostomy (depending on the type of urostomy).
  • If you’ve had vaginal reconstruction, you will also have drains and bandages on the part of your body from where tissue was taken to make the new vagina.

Pain control after pelvic exenteration

You’ll need painkilling drugs for a few weeks after the operation.

To begin with, you’ll be given painkillers into a vein (intravenously) or into the space around your spinal cord (epidural anaesthesia). The painkillers are usually given continuously through a pump. The pump may have a hand control with a button you can press to top up your pain control if you feel sore. This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA). It is designed so you can’t give yourself too much painkiller (overdose), so it’s okay to press it whenever you’re uncomfortable.

It’s important to let the doctor or nurses on the ward know if you’re in pain, so that the dose can be increased, or the painkillers changed, as soon as possible. When you‘re ready to go home, your pain will be controlled with tablets and you’ll be given a prescription of painkillers to take.

Back to Pelvic exenteration in women

What is pelvic exenteration in women?

Pelvic exenteration is an operation to treat cancer. The bladder, parts of the bowel and internal reproduction organs are removed.

How should I prepare for a pelvic exenteration?

You will have lots of tests and scans to make sure pelvic exenteration is suitable for you.

Having a pelvic exenteration

Pelvic exenteration takes about eight hours. After the operation, you will have new ways for urine and bowel motions to leave your body.

Recovering after a pelvic exenteration

Recovery after pelvic exenteration can take a long time. Try to take it slowly until you have more energy.

Impact on sex life

Pelvic exenteration will cause changes to your sex life. Your doctor will be able to explain this to you.

Your feelings

Your feelings after pelvic exenteration.