What happens after pelvic exenteration?

After the operation (surgery), you will stay in hospital for 2 to 3 weeks. When you wake up, you will have a dressing on your tummy (abdomen). You will also have drips and drains in place. You will need painkillers for a few weeks.

Your nurse or physiotherapist will:

  • encourage you to start moving when you can
  • help you get out of bed
  • show you movements and breathing exercises.

It can take time to get used to living with a stoma. But a stoma nurse will help you. They will change your stoma bags and show you how to do it yourself.

You will need support when you go home after surgery. The hospital staff can arrange help if you need it, and tell you who will help you with your wound.

Recovery from pelvic exenteration takes a long time. Build up your activities slowly and only do as much as you feel able to. Your surgeon or specialist nurse can tell you how long to wait before doing certain activities. It may take several months after surgery to recover. Over time, you will feel stronger and have more energy.

What happens after the surgery?

After pelvic exenteration, you will be in an intensive care or high-dependency unit for the first few days. You will probably stay in hospital for 2 to 3 weeks.

When you wake up after the operation, you will have dressings on your tummy (abdomen) and sometimes the area between your scrotum and back passage. Your nurse will give you advice about how to cope with your dressings and wounds.

You may also have:

  • a drip going into a vein (intravenous infusion) – this is used to give you food and fluids until you can eat and drink again, and may also be used to give you painkillers and antibiotics
  • a fine tube going into your back (epidural) – this is used to give you painkillers
  • a fine tube that passes down your nose and into your stomach (nasogastric tube) – this is to allow any fluids in the stomach to be removed, to stop you feeling sick
  • one or more drainage tubes from your wound – these drain fluid or blood and are removed when the amount of fluid has reduced enough
  • bags covering a colostomy or urostomy, or a tube coming from your continent urinary diversion (depending on which you have).


Pain control after pelvic exenteration

You will need painkillers for a few weeks after the operation.

To start with, you will have painkillers into a vein (intravenously) or into the space around your spinal cord (epidural). The painkillers are usually given continuously through a pump. The pump may have a hand control with a button you can press. This is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). It gives you more control. You press the button when you need more painkillers. It is fine to press the button whenever you need it. It is designed so you cannot give yourself too much.

It is important to let the doctors or nurses on the ward know if you are still in pain. They can increase the dose or change the painkillers. When you are ready to go home, your pain will be controlled with tablets. A nurse will give you tablets to take home.


Getting moving after pelvic exenteration

Your nurse or physiotherapist will encourage you to start moving around as soon as possible after the operation. The day after your operation, your nurses will help you get out of bed and sit in a chair.

If you are in bed, it is important to do regular leg movements and deep breathing exercises.

You will talk to a physiotherapist. They will show you gentle exercises and give you advice on how and when to start walking. You will find it easier to move around when all your drips and drains have been removed.


Stoma care after pelvic exenteration

After a few days, you will be able to start to do more for yourself. Your stoma nurse will teach you how to change your stoma bags. You may feel worried about doing this to start with, but most people find they get used to caring for their stoma.

Your stoma nurse will give you information and support to help you adjust.

It's not always easy and you do have accidents. But you learn to deal with them. Over time you get into a routine. It just becomes part of your life.

Jesse


Going home after pelvic exenteration

When you go home, you will need extra help and support for a few weeks. Before your surgery, tell the hospital staff or your specialist nurse if you are worried about managing at home. They can arrange help for you.

The hospital nurses will tell you who will help you with your wound when you go home. You will also get support from a stoma nurse.

You will have injections every day to thin your blood. This reduces the risk of blood clots. You will need these injections for a few weeks. The hospital nurses will show you how to inject yourself, so you can do them at home. If you are not able to inject yourself, they will show a family member or friend how to do it. Or they can arrange for a district nurse to do it for you.

Recovery from pelvic exenteration takes a long time. Build up your activities slowly and only do as much as you feel able to. Your surgeon or specialist nurse will tell you what things to avoid doing until you have had time to heal.

Talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse if you have any worries about recovering. You may have questions about:

  • going back to work
  • driving
  • housework
  • sports or other activities.

You may find it takes several months after surgery to recover. As time goes on, you will start to feel stronger and have more energy.

Back to Pelvic exenteration in men

Having pelvic exenteration

Pelvic exenteration takes about 8 hours – after the surgery, urine (pee) and stools (poo) will leave your body in a new way.