All operations and surgeries are different and affect different people in various ways. Your health beforehand will also impact how well or quickly you recover.
Before your surgery, you will receive information about the procedure, from how long it is likely to take, to any preparations you need to make such as starving or refraining from certain activities before or afterward. The more you understand about your surgery, the better prepared you will be for recovery. Be sure to ask questions and clarify any information you don’t understand.
Questions to ask might include:
What type of surgery are you having?
Some surgeries are more common than others, but all come with certain risks and a period of recovery. The most common surgeries in the UK include hip and knee replacements. These can require a few days in the hospital, followed by around 6-12 weeks of recovery with plenty of rest and rehabilitation exercises provided to help you recover. Other surgeries may be more invasive and require more recovery time.
Find out as much about your surgery as possible but remember that all recovery times are always an estimate. You may take more or less time to heal depending on your circumstances.
After your surgery is complete you will be moved from theatre to begin recovery. If your operation required local anaesthetic this is more likely to be awarded. For general anaesthetic, this will be a recovery room where you will be monitored more closely.
Coming back from surgery after either anaesthetic will require you to rest and have your blood pressure and heart rate monitored. You may also be asked about any pain you are experiencing so that medications and pain relief can be administered at the correct levels. This all falls under the title of post-anaesthesia care.
You will likely only be in the recovery room for an hour or so before being moved to your private room or back to your ward – depending on the hospital you are staying in.
Feeling tired or groggy after surgery is completely normal as is feeling little nausea. You may also be in pain around your surgery site, but this will be managed by hospital staff.
After surgery, even minor operations conducted under local anaesthetic, you will spend some time in the hospital, so your health can be monitored. Local anaesthetic is less invasive than general but still requires you to be kept on a ward for a short period. It’s best to relax and use the time recovering in the hospital to ask any questions of the doctors and nurses.
A member of the family or a close friend can be with you while you recover from the anaesthetic. If you are being discharged on the same day as your surgery, a general anaesthetic will require you to have someone to take you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours after your surgery.
Before you go home after surgery, it’s important to have a plan in place to help you recover thoroughly. As well as the information provided here, we have a guide on what to do before transitioning home available for you to read here.
There are a few important things to consider:
Will any changes need to be made to your home?
If your surgery will make a difference to your mobility, there may need to be temporary or longer-term changes made to your home. This could include:
These changes should be considered early, especially if they will make a significant change to the structure of your home or need to be long-term solutions.
You may need to hire or buy equipment to make your recovery easier once you return home. This could include:
Any changes made to your home or special equipment are known as home adaptations and costs can sometimes be covered by your local council. Some may even be free such as grab rails. You can also request a home assessment conducted by the council or applied online. More information is available from the NHS here.
Before you leave the hospital after your surgery, make sure any medications you are taking are ordered from the pharmacy, so you don’t miss any. Organise someone to help you take them regularly if you struggle to remember or administer them yourself. Making sure you take medicines regularly will help you to recover thoroughly and may also help manage any pain or discomfort as you heal.
Recover takes different lengths of time depending on the surgery and your health beforehand. To make sure you recover as quickly as possible, you should listen to any advice your doctor gives you and follow exercise and medication regimes.
An important thing to remember about recovery is that it isn’t a linear process – there may be setbacks. A medication may have unwanted side effects and have to be changed, or you may develop an infection or other illness which means your recovery takes a little longer. Try not to worry as this is normal and your doctors will manage your recovery and help you to get through.
There are some common mistakes people sometimes make while they are recovering. They can cause setbacks in your recovery process, so it’s important to try and avoid them:
If you are still working, you may feel ready to return sooner than you should. Recovery can feel frustrating and you’ll want to start doing the things you used to before the operation but remember that your body is still healing, and you could do more damage than good. Try mental stimulation instead of physical to help you keep busy without straining yourself.
If you are worried about your surgery site being damaged by movement or that doing too much will cause you pain, you may be tempted to stay in bed. While rest is important, you also must gently prepare your body for getting back to normal after recovery. Light exercises recommended by your doctor are often fine, plus fresh air can be beneficial.
As well as pain relief, you may have other medications that help your body to recover. Missing them causes them to become ineffective and could slow down your recovery time. Get help to remind you to take them on time from a friend or carer.
Nutrition can play a big part in aiding your recovery. Making sure you get a balanced diet and stay hydrated will help your body to have energy and the vitamins and minerals it needs to function and heal. Eating too much could make you feel lethargic or too little could mean that you are too hungry to do recovery exercises. Your doctor may give you a list of foods and drinks to avoid after surgery, or ones that could help you. It’s important to follow their advice.
Alcohol is usually discouraged for a period both before and after surgery. This is because it interferes with your blood’s ability to clot, which could make incisions and controlling blood loss during surgery difficult. Alcohol also disrupts how your body absorbs anaesthesia, so your sedation might be affected. After surgery, you might be on medication that cannot be taken with alcohol. Alcohol weakens the immune system and can increase the risk of infection, it also widens the blood vessels potentially causing swelling at the surgery site. Additional swelling can delay your healing process.
Even though it can be frustrating to be told what you can or cannot do post-surgery, your doctors and nurses have your best interests at heart. Listen and follow their advice to help you recover as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
Tips for a speedy recovery
Although your recovery is determined by many factors, there are some things you can do to give it the best chance of healing thoroughly, and potentially a little quicker.
Nutritious meals and a balanced diet will give your body the energy it needs to heal and function correctly. Look at foods that are particularly rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins that promote healing such as beans, eggs and chicken. The NHS provides an Eat Well guide to help you achieve a balanced diet.
Stress is not always easy to avoid, but it will be a lot better if you can be calm and relaxed during recovery. Stress can raise your blood pressure and weaken your immune system making recovery more difficult. Try to avoid anything that brings you unwanted stress while you heal.
Although recovering at home can be helpful, as you are surrounded by your things and people you know, it can also pose some safety risks if your surgery affected your mobility. Place lights in hallways, wear flat shoes or slippers and reduce clutter to help you move about easily and reduce the risks of trips, slips, and falls. You may also want to rearrange things temporarily to sleep near the bathroom if you find this particularly difficult during recovery.
Following medical advice and taking your medications on time is important. Making sure you stick to any timetabled treatments or therapies will help you to keep your recovery on track.
Support during a period of recovery is vital. Depending on the severity of your surgery, you may require round-the-clock care for a period. Friends and family can help but may not always be readily available or able to perform the tasks you need.
Cavendish Homecare specialises in providing bespoke nursing and care for returning home post-surgery. We can also help with the transfer from the hospital to your home. Our Post Operative Home Care page details how we can help you, or you can contact us to find out more.