After your surgery, you may well remain in the recovery area for several hours to ensure you are stable. You may then spend a few hours in a high dependancy unit before being transferred back to your ward.
Post-operative routines have changed a lot in the past few years, mainly due to the research which has led to the Enhanced Recovery programme. Getting patients moving and eating normally as soon as possible after their operation reduces complications and helps them recover more quickly. Whether you are on an Enhanced Recovery programme or not you will receive similar care.
On return to the ward you will have a drip in your arm to replace fluids and you may have a tube into your bladder (catheter) for a day or two. This is important as it allows monitoring of your urine out put. These will be removed as soon as you are able to eat and drink.
Your team will encourage you to sit out of bed soon after your operation, and will be keen for you to walk around the ward several times a day as soon as you are able. To prevent blood clots you will be given compression stockings and blood thinning injections. You should also do frequent leg exercises (rotating the feet and pushing the feet up and down) while sitting in the chair or lying in bed.
The nurse or physiotherapist will show you how to do deep breathing exercises until you are up and about. These exercises will help clear secretions from your lungs and help prevent a chest infection. Patients are sometimes worried about coughing, but this is a good way of clearing your chest. Gently supporting the abdomen with a towel or pillow will make it more comfortable.
Pain relief is very important in the first few days and weeks. It will help you to get up and move around comfortably and speed your recovery. it is important to let the team know if you feel that your pain is not under control.
You will be allowed to eat and drink soon after your return to the ward. Most people find that small portions of bland and low-fibre foods are easier to digest initially. You may be given some more supplement drinks.
Recent studies have shown that chewing gum can help your bowel to return to its normal function. Chewing gum can also help relieve trapped wind and the colicky pains that you might experience after bowel surgery.
You may be prescribed a low-fibre or low-residue diet for a few weeks to allow your bowel to heal. If you have a permanent or temporary stoma, you will be visited on a regular basis by the stoma nurse specialist to give you specific dietary advice, and help you to get used to and care for your stoma.
Once you are eating and drinking, walking around the ward (and able to go upstairs if you need to do this at home), your wound is healing well, and you are managing your stoma if applicable, your consultant will be happy for you to go home.