What is Post Operative Care?

What is Post Operative Care – Overview

The care you receive after undergoing surgical treatment is called post operative care. The type of surgery you have experienced usually determines the kind of post operative care you need.

Your medical history is also essential to creating a suitable post operative care plan. Post operative care typically involves wound care and pain management.

Post operative care starts immediately after a surgical procedure. It may last throughout your hospital stay and continue even after being discharged.

Your healthcare provider will give specific instructions as part of your post operative care.

These instructions contain tips for handling a surgical procedure’s potential side effects and complications.

Before undergoing surgery, you should ask your surgeon about the kind of post operative care you would need.

This way, you can prepare beforehand. The surgeon may change some instructions post-surgery depending on how your surgical treatment went and your expected recovery time.

Preparing for Post Operative Care

Preparing for Post Operative Care

Preparing for Post Operative Care

You should ask your surgeon/doctor every question that comes to your mind regarding post operative care.

Also, before getting discharged, make sure to ask your doctor for an updated list of post operative care instructions. Most hospitals tend to provide written post operative care instructions.

You can ask your doctor questions, such as:

  • What side effects to expect?
  • Will you need a physical therapist or caregiver at home?
  • Will you need particular medication or equipment to recover at home?
  • How long should you wish to stay at the hospital following the surgery?
  • What are the complications to look out for?
  • Which things should you do or avoid to improve your recovery rate?
  • When can you resume everyday activities?

The replies to these questions usually help you prepare for post operative care ahead of time, even before undergoing surgery.

If you need help from caregivers, you should arrange this before the surgery. It is also essential to learn how to recognize, prevent and respond to possible complications.

Depending on the type of surgery you have, there could be different sorts of complications.

For instance, most surgeries have a potential risk of infection, blood clots, or bleeding at the incision site.

Being inactive for long periods during post operative recovery can also cause you to lose muscle strength and develop respiratory complications.

You can consult your doctor and know about the difficulties to expect following your specific surgical treatment.

Post Operative Care at the Hospital

Once your surgery is complete, you will be shifted to the recovery room. You might have to stay in the recovery room for a couple of hours or until your anesthesia wears off.

Feeling groggy after waking up from anesthesia is a common side effect, and some people also tend to feel nausea.

However, these are temporary symptoms and go once the anesthesia wears off completely.

In the recovery room, the nursing staff will constantly be monitoring your breathing, blood pressure, pulse and temperature.

They may also check your lung functions and the site of incision for bleeding or signs of infection.

The nursing staff also checks for signs of allergic reaction in the recovery room following surgical treatment.

Depending on the surgery, the surgeon may advise on administering local or general anesthesia.

Once the nursing staff deems you stable, you will be moved to a hospital room if you need to stay overnight.

Otherwise, the surgeon will advise you to get discharged and continue post operative care at home.

Post Operative Care for Outpatient Surgery

Outpatient surgery is a surgical treatment where patients are usually discharged on the same day following surgery.

Unless you show noticeable signs of complications after the surgery, you will get discharged from the hospital on the same day. You will not need to stay overnight at the hospital.

However, before being discharged, the doctor will check to ensure that your bodily functions, such as breathing, drinking and urinating, are performing normally.

If you were administered general anesthesia for the surgery, it is recommended not to drive a car.

In such a case, you should arrange for a friend or family member, or even a cab, to pick you up from the hospital and take you home.

Until the effects of anesthesia wear off, you may feel slightly dizzy even the next day.

Post Operative Care for Inpatient Surgery

Inpatient surgeries require the patient to stay overnight following the surgical procedure. This is so that trained nurses can provide you with the needed post operative care.

The surgeon may advise you to stay at the hospital for a couple of days to a week, depending on your recovery rate.

If an outpatient surgery shows signs of complications, the surgeon may advise you to be admitted into the hospital for post operative care.

Even after being shifted to a hospital room from the recovery room, the post operative care continues.

The surgeon may advise an intravenous (IV) catheter in your arm, and attach medical devices to measure your vital stats.

They will also take care of changing the dressing on the incision site. Depending on the type of surgery, you may have a breathing apparatus, heart monitor, and tubes in your bladder, nose or mouth.

In such cases, the nursing staff will continue to monitor your recovery through your vital signs. You will be given painkillers and other medications, usually orally or by injection through the IV.

The doctor or nurses may even advise you to get up from the bed and walk about the room as per your condition.

This is done to decrease the chances of blood clots forming in your arteries. This is also an excellent way to maintain your muscle mass during long periods of inactivity.

The nursing staff will support you to walk in case you need assistance.

Besides this, the doctor may also advise you to perform deep breathing exercises to prevent respiratory problems from developing after surgical treatment.

The doctor has sole say in when you will be discharged from the hospital after surgical treatment.

Remember to ask the doctor/surgeon for clearly written discharge instructions before you leave the hospital. If you need home care, make sure to prepare for it beforehand.

Post Operative Care at Home

Once you leave the hospital, it is extremely important to follow every post operative care instruction your doctor provides.

You should take your medications on time, watch for potential side effects or complications and keep your follow-up appointments.

Do only the things written in the instructions and not more. In contrast, you should also ensure that you perform sufficient physical activities, as advised by your doctor.

You can ease into your daily routine as soon as it is safe. It is best to resume everyday activities gradually following a surgical procedure.

In some cases, especially after major surgery, you may need professional help to recover at home. To do this, you may need to hire a home nursing professional.

These professionals are trained to tend to your wounds, keep you clean, prepare your food and offer support when you want to move around.

You can consult your doctor to recommend a reliable home caregiver for post operative care.

If you experience fever, increasing pain, or bleeding at the surgical site, you should contact your doctor immediately.


Proper aftercare is vital to decrease the risk of complications after surgery. It also boosts your recovery process. Ask your doctor for post operative care instructions before you leave the hospital.

In case you experience any side effects or complications from the surgery, it is vital to contact your doctor and consult them as soon as possible.

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