Activities to Avoid
Strenuous activity is prohibited for three to six weeks after surgery.
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than 20 to 30 pounds, or doing push or pull motions such as vacuuming, during the first six weeks after surgery.
- Avoid heavy work such as lifting, carrying or pushing heavy loads for the first three months after surgery.
- Avoid sitting and standing without moving for long periods. Change positions frequently while sitting, and walk around in lieu of standing still. These strategies may help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. Climbing stairs is encouraged.
During the first several weeks after surgery, you may feel weak and tire easily after activity. However, light activity, such as frequent short walks, is recommended. Gradually increase the distance. The more physically active you are, the better. It will enhance your recovery and ultimately give you more energy.
Continue walking at least four times a day, so that you are walking 30 to 45 minutes per day by the sixth week. By your six-week office visit, you should be regularly walking two miles a day or more, unless you have specific problems with your weight-bearing joints. If so, water exercises are recommended. You can begin these about three weeks after surgery.
- Staying Hydrated
You may be tired, weak or nauseated or may experience vomiting the first few weeks after surgery. Keep up your fluid intake with small, frequent sips as necessary. We recommend drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of water each day.
You can resume traveling short distances as soon as you feel strong enough to make the trip. Do not drive a motor vehicle until you are no longer taking prescription pain medication, which is usually about one week after surgery.
- Personal Hygiene
Most patients like to have someone home with them the first few days after surgery for moral and physical support. Due to the nature of abdominal surgery, you may need some help using the toilet.
Flushable baby wipes, a peri-bottle or small sports top water bottle are gentler for personal hygiene. A long sponge stick can also be helpful.
- Wound Care
Your wound should need minimal care. If sutures were used, they will most likely dissolve, so there is no need to remove any stitches.
You may notice some tape on your wound. This tape is called “steri-strips” and should fall off on its own.
If surgical staples were used, they will have to be removed, usually around the tenth day after surgery. This should not cause any pain.
No matter how your wound was closed, it is important to keep it clean and dry to promote faster healing. Unless otherwise prescribed, you should shower, wash with soap, rinse and dry thoroughly. If the wound is oozing or catching on clothing, you may cover it with a very light dressing, but otherwise leaving the wound open to air whenever possible may help prevent suture infection.
After about three weeks, it is usually safe for your incision to get completely wet. Ask your surgeon for the official “go ahead” before taking a bath. As you feel stronger, you may enjoy a swim or a soak in the tub.
Despite the greatest care, any wound can become infected. If your wound becomes reddened, swollen, leaks pus, has red streaks, has yellow/green purulent or odorous drainage, feels increasingly sore or you have a fever above 100.5˚F, you must notify your surgeon right away. These may be signs of an infection.
Do not use any antibiotic ointment or other occlusive ointment on your incision, unless your medical team has instructed you to do so.
Symptoms to Watch For
We do not expect you to have any serious problems after surgery. However, if you experience any of the symptoms below, you must contact your surgeon right away.
- Fever of 100.5˚F or above
- Redness, swelling, increased pain or pus-like drainage from your wound
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting that lasts more than 12 hours
- Pain, redness or swelling in your legs
- Urinating fewer than four times in 24 hours
- Pain that is unrelieved by pain medication
- You may experience some of the symptoms below, which are considered normal.
- Moderate swelling and bruising. However, if you experience severe swelling and bruising, notify your surgeon, as it may indicate bleeding or infection.
- Mild to moderate discomfort or pain. However, if the pain becomes severe and is not relieved by pain medication, please contact your surgeon.
- When an incision is made during surgery, small sensory nerves to the skin are occasionally cut, which may cause temporary numbness. Sensation in those areas usually returns, typically within two to three months, as the nerve endings heal. However, it is important to be especially careful not to burn yourself when applying heating pads to areas that may have post-operative numbness.
- Itching and occasional small shooting electrical sensations within the skin frequently occur as the nerve endings heal. These symptoms are common during the recovery period. Ice, skin moisturizers, vitamin E oil and massage are often helpful.
- Initially, all scars are red, dark pink or purple in color. Scars take about one year to fade. It is very important to protect your scars from the sun for a year after your surgery. Even through a bathing suit, a good deal of sunlight can reach the skin and cause damage. Wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 when exposed to the sun.