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Surgery Aftercare: Recovery At Home

Post-operative care, or care after surgery, can be divided into two categories: the aftercare provided by the surgical team and healthcare professionals in a medical setting just after surgery, or the care conducted at home following release from the surgical center.

While immediate care after a surgical procedure is generally maintained and enforced by healthcare teams in a hospital or surgery center when at home, it’s up to the patient.

General Care After Surgery

The following medical advice includes general instructions for a wide range of surgeries and should not be taken against a doctor’s or surgeon’s orders. Always rely on your surgeon and medical team’s instructions after surgery:

Wound Dressing

Keep the wound/surgical site clean and dry after surgery, dry is especially important for 48 hours after surgery. Unless otherwise told, on the fifth day after surgery the surgical site can be exposed in the shower but should not be scrubbed. Also, it’s important to never remove the paper strips or cut any visible sutures unless otherwise told nor should the wound be submerged under water (in either a bath or pool) till the sutures are removed.

Icing the Surgical Site

While the post-operative dressing is in place, ice application should be as continuous as possible and should begin after the first five to seven days following surgery.

Mobility and Movement

Carefully follow all weight-bearing instructions given at discharge following surgery and use crutches or a cane as advised or when needed. For the first 72 hours after surgery, it is important to keep the operated limb elevated.

Pain Medication

Local anesthetic is usually placed into the incision after surgery to help ease any post-surgery pain, though it isn’t uncommon for patients to feel more pain on the first or second day following the operation. If prescribed pain medication, it is very important to not drink any alcoholic beverages.

Call a Doctor If…

  • A low-grade fever is fairly common in the first 24 hours after surgery, but if above 100.5, a doctor should be contacted.
  • If severe pain or significant swelling occurs at the surgical site or limb operated on, call a doctor.

Plan for Recovery After Surgery

Care at home is crucial to proper recovery and should be planned for. Following surgery, the doctor and surgical team will provide specific instructions, but will also advise in advance or you can ask them how to prepare your home before the date of surgery.

In general, a patient can expect to need or follow these instruction but keep in mind that the specific instructions received from the surgical team or healthcare provider are the ones you must follow:

  • If the nature of the surgery prevents climbing stairs, the bedroom should be moved to the first floor if needed.
  • If living alone or others in the house aren’t home throughout the day, plan ahead grocery shopping and ensure the kitchen is stocked with the right foods.
  • Sometimes special equipment is needed to aid in everyday activities, such as shower seats, elevated toilets, and guide rails.
  • Declutter the home to avoid any tripping hazards and add nightlights in the hallway, this is especially important if on pain medication.
  • Take medication as instructed.
  • Avoid any alcohol.
  • Do not drive a vehicle when on pain medication and when advised not to.
  • Rest is important unless otherwise told by your doctor. Activity should be minimal except when instructed to be active at proper levels to aid in recovery.
  • Clear liquids and a light diet are typically recommended after surgery. Avoid any spicy, hot, or gaseous foods as they can cause nausea.

Follow the Surgeon’s Aftercare Health Advice

As stated throughout this article, the instructions to follow through recovery after surgery come straight from the doctor and surgical team themselves. If you have any questions, they provide an emergency and specific contact line to reach someone to answer any recovery-related questions.

If you’ve had orthopedic surgery at Proliance Puget Sound Orthopaedics and have any questions or need to schedule an appointment, we encourage you to call (253) 830 – 5200 or request an appointment online to see one of our physicians.


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