Frequently Asked Questions
- What if I experience pain after surgery?
Nearly all pain can be controlled with proper medications. Most operations result in pain, but the goal is to make your pain tolerable.
Do not be afraid to request pain medication if your pain is uncontrolled. Almost all patients will receive instructions and/or prescriptions for pain medication after surgery.
If pain is unrelieved after discharge, you should call one of the contact numbers at the bottom of the discharge instruction sheet that will be given to you before you go home.
- Can I walk and use the stairs?
Unless indicated after an operation, you are encouraged to walk and may use stairs after surgery.
Walking helps improve your exercise tolerance and decreases the chance of developing blood clots to the legs and pulmonary emboli (dangerous blood clots in the lung).
- Can I get my incision wet?
The care of your wound will be discussed after surgery.
- What do I do with my wound?
All wounds should be covered if they are draining.
Wounds are similar to a baby's diaper - if they are wet or dirty, they need to be changed with a fresh dressing, even if that means changing the dressing several times a day.
3M Steri-Strips (sometimes called butterfly tapes) may be left on until they fall off. Steri-Strips that have been on for two weeks or longer should be removed if the wound has healed.
Most patients with Steri-Strips may take a shower, but it is important not to immerse the wound in a tub or expose the wound to water for long durations. Should a Steri-Strip fall off within the first week of surgery, simply place a Band-Aid over the exposed area.
Incisions with staples should be covered with a dressing if there is drainage, otherwise the wound may be open to air. Some patients prefer to place a dressing over the incision to keep their clothing from catching on the staples.
- When can I put antibiotic ointment on my wound?
The use of antibiotic ointments is discouraged immediately after surgery. Once the wound has healed, Neosporin ointment may be used to improve the cosmetic results of the scar.
- When do I resume my medications?
As many people have different types of medications, this question will be discussed after surgery.
- Should I take medicine for constipation after surgery?
Having an operation often results in constipation, even in patients who are regular. The combination of anesthesia, decreased activity and pain medication can produce severe constipation.
A person who has an incision to the abdomen may sustain pain while straining to have a bowel movement and can place undue stress on the sutures and tissues.
Except for surgery on the bowel, it is often a good idea to use laxatives or stool softeners after surgery to prevent this complication.
- When can I go back to work?
Often patients expect to return to work in a predetermined set of days after their operation. Returning to work depends on (1) the ability to recover so that you can resume your work duties and (2) the decision by your employer to allow you to return to work.
First, different patients heal at different rates after undergoing surgery. Despite undergoing the same operation, what may take one person a few days to recover may take someone else much longer to get to the point where they may be able to resume their job.
Second, people vary in the jobs they hold. For example, someone who has had major surgery might be able to resume their employment if they have a flexible desk job. Someone with the same operation who performs strenuous activity on the job, such as operating a jackhammer, may need to be off work for several weeks.
In addition, employers vary in the rules in which they will allow someone to return to work.
Some employers expect an individual to return to light duty after certain operations; other employers insist that their employees must be able to return to full activities before they can resume their job.
The decision to return to work must be individualized to each person. It combines the judgment of the surgeon, patient and employer.
- When can I drive?
Two conditions MUST be met before returning to drive:
- First, you cannot be on certain medications, especially some types of prescription pain medicines that affect your judgment.
- Second, you must have normal reaction times in the event of an emergency.
If these two conditions are not met, then you should NOT drive!