After your Operation
It is only natural to want to get back to normal as soon as possible after your surgery, but don’t be surprised if you feel very tired when you get home, especially if you’ve had a major operation or a general anaesthetic.
Your surgeon will discuss the recovery timeframes with you prior to your operation – it may take a few days or a week to recover from a less complex operation, but it can take a few months to recover from major surgery.
A healthy balanced diet containing a variety of foods, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help to ensure that your body has all of the nutrients it needs to heal.
By not smoking – even if it’s just for the time that you’re recovering – you immediately start to improve your circulation and your breathing – not to mention a whole list of other benefits to the heart and lungs.
Family and friends
Family and friends can give you two important things:
- Practical help with the tasks you might temporarily be unable to do while you recover – such as driving, cleaning, the weekly shop or lifting heavier items.
- Emotional support – it’s important to talk to your family and friends about how you feel. Sharing your concerns with close friends and family can help your recovery.
Keep a routine
Get up at your normal time in the morning, get dressed and move about. If you get tired, rest later.
It’s important to move around as soon as possible after surgery and follow your doctor’s advice on getting active again. Gentle movement encourages blood to flow and your wounds to heal, and will build up strength in your muscles.
You may receive information about specific exercises before your operation – these will aid in your recovery, and stop your joints becoming stiff. It is important to continue these at home for as long as you are advised. It’s possible that some you may also need to receive additional physiotherapy after your operation.
Preventing blood clots
Measures to prevent clots in the leg need to be taken following your operation, sometimes continuing for up to 6 weeks. A range of options is available and your surgeon will advise on what is best for you.
Build up gradually
Have a go at doing some of the things you’d normally do, but build up gradually. Obviously, everyone recovers at a different speed, so listen to what your body is telling you.
As you build up your activities, you may feel more tired than normal. If so, stop and rest until your strength returns. If you feel pain, you have probably just overdone it a little. Ease back and then gradually increase again. If you are concerned, consult your GP or your breast care nurse.
Nausea and vomiting
Many people feel nauseous during the 24 hours after their surgery, but there are medicines to control these side effects. Some people continue to feel nauseated for the first few days after they are discharged from hospital, but this will improve.
Chills and dizziness
Your body may cool down after surgery, so you may feel cold and shiver. During the surgery and recovery, your temperature will be maintained, usually with warm blankets. Some people feel dizzy from the anaesthetic or because they may be dehydrated. You will be monitored to make sure you aren’t getting an infection.
You may feel confused, groggy or ‘fuzzy’ in the minutes or hours after you wake up, and you may not remember why you had surgery. Most people make a full recovery within a few hours. In some cases, this may take days, particularly in elderly people and those who had memory problems before surgery.
Rarely, people have ongoing mental effects (such as fogginess or mild memory loss) for a week or several months after surgery. This is called postoperative cognitive dysfunction. The reasons for this are unknown.
You might cry or feel restless and anxious when you wake up. Some people feel like their arms or legs are twitchy. This is a normal reaction.
Tell your medical team if any of these side effects get worse or worry you.
Source: Cancer Council of Victoria
The sooner you start to move around, the better. Lying in bed for too long can cause some of your blood to pool in your legs and this puts you at risk of developing a blood clot.
If possible, doing some leg exercises can help to prevent a blood clot. These may be as simple as flexing your knee or ankle and rotating your foot.
You may be given special support stockings to wear after surgery to help your blood circulation. Some people are given an injection to thin the blood slightly to help reduce the risk of clots.
Signs to look out for after your operation include:
- pain or swelling in your leg
- the skin of your leg feeling hot or discoloured
- the veins near the surface of your leg appearing larger than normal
- a heavy ache in the affected area
- red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately
The timing of your first follow-up appointment will depend on the type of surgery and your recovery. You may see the surgeon or your GP, depending on where you live and what your medical team recommends. If you have been told not to drive, you will need someone to drive you to the appointment. It’s also a good idea to take someone with you for support and to take notes.
Your doctor will check your wound and remove any stitches, staples, adhesives or drains that are still in place. If your pathology results are available, your doctor will discuss these with you and tell you whether you will need any further treatment. You will also be given advice about getting back to your normal activities. You may need to ask about specific things, such as driving, exercising and going back to work.
Not smoking after surgery speeds up recovery and avoids unnecessary post-surgical complications.
Smoking undermines the bodies ability to deliver the required nutrients to your wound, which means the time it takes for the wounds to heal is much longer. This increases your risk of surgical wound infections and pressure ulcers.
Ask your surgeon if you are permitted to take your regular medications (such as those for heart, blood pressure, or insulin etc.) before arriving for surgery.
After surgery, you should avoid all anti-inflammatory medications, unless your surgeon prescribes them. Do not resume these medications until your doctor says that it is okay.
Do not bring valuables such as money, jewellery etc.Do not wear make-upBring toiletries and loose fitting, comfortable clothing to wear upon dischargeYou will be required to remove contact lenses, jewellery, dentures, and wigs
Looking after yourself at home is one of the most important parts of your recovery. Your rate of improvement and progress will depend on the type of surgery you have, what support you have at home, your overall fitness and health, and whether you are having other treatments. If you live alone, it’s a good […]