After your operation

What happens after your operation will depend on the type of operation itself and how quickly you recover.

As soon as the operation is finished, the anaesthetic drugs will be stopped or reversed so that you regain consciousness.

If you have had a small operation, perhaps as a day patient, you will probably be able to go home the same evening. You will need to be collected by a relative or friend.

You may be given tablets to take for pain or sickness and advice about what you can and can't do. You will be given an appointment to come back to the hospital and told when your stitches (or clips) need to be removed and the person who will do this.

If you have had a bigger operation, you will be staying in hospital longer. You will usually be encouraged to get up and move around, with help, when you have recovered from the anaesthetic.

Recovering from surgery

After the operation, you may be taken to the recovery room. Recovery nurses will watch you carefully while you are waking up and check your pulse and blood pressure regularly.

When you have recovered safely from your anaesthetic, you will be taken back to your ward where you will continue to be observed. If you need extra medical or nursing care you may be taken to a critical care unit (CCU).

You may feel sick after your operation. Tell your doctor or nurse as they can give you an anti-sickness drug. You can have these regularly.

A call button will be placed close by so you can call the nurse if necessary. You may be given fluids, and any drugs you need, via a drip into a vein, usually in your arm. This will stay in place until you are able to drink normally.

When any tissue is cut it's normal for blood and fluid to be produced. You may have one or two wound drains (tubes) in place to remove this. These are usually taken out after a few days.

Your wound (if you have one) may be stitched or clipped (using staples) together, or Steristrips (strips of sticky tape) may be used to close it.

The body can absorb some types of stitches, while others need to be removed several days after your operation.

A catheter tube may be placed in your bladder to drain away urine. These are not left in place any longer than necessary.

If you have had an operation on your stomach or bowel, you won't usually be able to eat or drink for a few days. During the operation the surgeon can't avoid handling your bowel and this can cause it to stop working temporarily.

Afterwards, it can take several days for the bowel to start working again.

You will have a thin tube inserted up your nose and down into your stomach. This is to drain off any fluid and stop you from being sick. It won't affect your ability to speak.

What can I do to help?

  • Ask for pain relief or anti-sickness drugs if you feel uncomfortable. If you're given tablets to take home, remember to take them regularly for the first couple of days.
  • Check before drinking or eating anything. Your mouth may feel very dry and you will want to drink. Use a mouthwash first of all and then start taking sips of water only. If you don't feel sick, you will be able to drink more and then have something light to eat.
  • Do the deep breathing and leg exercises you were shown before your operation.
  • Call the nurse if you want to get out of bed. Please don't try to do it on your own as it takes up to 24 hours for the effects of general anaesthetic to wear off.
  • If you're going home on the day of your operation, ask what you can and can't do. You will probably be advised not to drive a car, operate machinery or drink alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Ask if you're unsure or anxious about anything.