Postoperative care: What is to be expected?

Postoperative care is important for all patients who have undergone surgery. The postoperative care phase consists of the period after an operation, including the time it takes to get back home and the time it takes to recover from any surgical risks like bleeding or infection. This is very important because patients are more vulnerable to risks during this recovery period, which could lead to serious complications in cases where post-surgical care is not adequate.

Postoperative care is almost as important as the surgery itself. Postop care should be organised before the surgery when possible. Surgery can take a huge toll on the body, and often it takes a long time to recover. Postoperative care, therefore, depends on the type of surgery and the severity of your condition.  It can range from physical therapy to medications to surgical dressing changes, as well as monitoring for any potential complications.

Your doctor and healthcare professionals should advise you on the appropriate postoperative care, but medical negligence can also occur if the patient isn’t advised correctly so it’s imperative to ensure that the information and care your receiving is sufficient.

What happens if post-op care isn’t optimal?

It’s highly unlikely you’ll feel great immediately after surgery and will most likely feel very tired.

After surgery, patients should be monitored for a number of different indicators. These include: fever, discomfort in the surgical site, increased swelling or redness in the surgical site or around the incision line, and discharge from the incision line.

The following might be some indications that you have not received optimal post-surgical care:

– You experience pain that persists for more than a day (you should be given pain management to cope with the expected pain)

– You develop fever or chills

– You have difficulty breathing

– You become nauseated or vomit

If you experience any of these then seek medical advice urgently. If you are not an inpatient then it may be advisable to have a person with you for at least 24 hours after your operation to ensure you do not experience any adverse effects and in case you need someone to drive you to a medical centre.

According to the NHS, you should also be aware of signs of a blood clot after an operation, including:

  • 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

They also advise getting back to being active as soon as your doctor advises to ensure good blood flow and strengthen the muscles in your body. Ultimately, too much rest can be just as bad as no rest at all following surgery. Ask your surgeon or doctor when you can begin to move around once more and when normal exercise can resume.

What’s the difference between inpatient and outpatient care?

Inpatient care requires you to stay in the hospital for treatment and care. You could become an inpatient through the emergency room or a pre-booked surgery.  Inpatient care is for those who need long-term treatment and rehabilitation services because they require constant supervision by medical professionals to ensure their health and safety.

Outpatient care refers to a procedure or treatment that does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. You can carry out your postoperative care at home or in a rehabilitation centre.  Immediately after an operation, you may be advised to have someone with you for 24 hours or so in case of complications.

The recovery process looks different for everyone

Postoperative care differs from patient to patient. Major surgeries, like a complete hip replacement, could leave you with limited physical abilities. You will need rehabilitation professionals to help you walk and balance again. Major surgeries like this lead to inpatient care. 

Smaller surgeries are more likely to require outpatient care. Your postoperative care plan is extremely important, and you should attend every doctor’s appointment following the surgery. Medical professionals will check on your condition after the operation and watch out for any warning signals. 

Healthcare professionals will assist with pain management as well. You may be given a prescription for pain medication following the surgery.  Pain management and a hygienic environment are extremely important for outpatient care. 

As are following the medical instructions you are given such as applying a topical solution, various exercises or rest periods – whatever is required for your specific postoperative care as an outpatient. 

Following the postop instructions provided to you will help to ensure a smooth recovery.

Getting back to your regular life with rehabilitation

If you’ve had major surgery, such as a hip replacement, then rehabilitation programmes can help you to get back to your normal life. You may need to regain full mobility and control over your balance, posture and coordination.

Rehabilitation professionals may give you exercises to practise at home and set a plan to follow. You need to move your muscles without pushing your body too hard. Remember, surgery can be very invasive and tough on the body. 

Rehabilitation programmes reduce your chance of contracting postoperative pulmonary complications and various other infections. You should make sure your incision site looks clean and healthy. If it starts to smell or hurt more than usual, you should contact a healthcare professional immediately. 

Postoperative care must be carried out properly

It is essential to provide appropriate postoperative care in order to promote healing, reduce the risk of infection, and prevent pain.

If postoperative care isn’t carried out correctly, it can lead to more issues down the line. You could experience complications that require more surgery and inpatient care. 

It’s so important to look after yourself after an operation and follow any postop advice. 

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