Everyone’s body is a little different and will recover at a different pace. During this time, you will keep working on eating, drinking, walking, and waiting for gas and stool to come.
The surgeon will decide you are ready to go home based on:
- How well you are eating and drinking
- How you are walking
- If you are urinating on your own
- If you are passing gas and stool
- How your incision looks
If you have an ostomy or need wound care, you will have a visiting nurse come to your home to help. If you need some extra help, you may need to go to a skilled nursing facility for a few weeks. We will make all of these arrangements for you.
You may go home with a surgical drain. If so, the nurses will show you how to empty it. Keep track of how much drainage comes out on a piece of paper and bring that to your first postop visit. It may be taken out then.
The discharge instructions will be reviewed by the surgery team and the nursing staff.
You will leave the hospital with written instructions about how to care for yourself and prescriptions for pain medicine. Your care team will go over the instructions and prescriptions with you. We encourage you to fill your prescription at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics so that if there is a problem, we are here to fix it.
Pain medicines are rarely refilled. It is important you take your pain medicine wisely. If you are going to run out before your first postop visit, call in to talk about it before you run out. You may need to come to the clinic for your doctor to check you and for the refill. The number of pills you are given at discharge are based on how many you used at the hospital. Please remember to take them only when needed and only for pain.
Most problems after surgery happen after you go home from the hospital
It is important you call the surgery clinic right away if you have:
- A fever higher than 100.4
- Nausea and vomiting, and you cannot keep liquids down
- Redness or any kind of drainage from your incisions
- Problems urinating or passing gas or stool
- Feel very tired or short of breath
- Leg pain
- A lot of ileostomy output or diarrhea
- Any other concerns that you think are not normal
You will be seen back in the clinic for a postop check. It will be one to two weeks after surgery if you have an ileostomy or need staples taken out. It will be in two to four weeks if you do not have these things. The appointment will be made for you before you leave the hospital.
Your postop check
When you come back you will see either a nurse practitioner or the surgeon.
- Are off their pain medicine
- Have healed incisions
- May still need to take naps. Your energy level and appetite will keep getting better for two months after surgery.
- Will be feeling much more comfortable with their ostomy. If you need to see the ostomy nurse, we will call them to the clinic.
It is usually a short visit. If you need more care at that time, we will talk about and arrange it.
If you have questions or concerns after you leave the hospital, please call us right away.
It is easiest to reach a person from your health-care team between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Camille Rasmussen: 319-384-9841, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Hospital operator: 319-356-1616 after 4 p.m. on weekdays, weekends, or holidays
- Ask to talk to the surgery resident on call.
- The resident on call is taking care of patients in the hospital so it may take a little time for your call to be returned.
Your wound may be slightly red and uncomfortable for one to two weeks after your surgery.
Call us if your wound is:
- Very red
- More painful
- More swollen
- Any type of leaking fluid
You can shower and let the soapy water wash over your incision. Do not scrub it or put anything on it.
Do not soak in a bathtub, swimming pool, or hot tub for one month after surgery. The wound will “soften up” in several months.
It is common to have lumpy areas in the wound near your belly button and at the ends of the incision.
If you have staples, you will come back to clinic in 10 to 14 days to have them taken out. If you have glue on your incisions, it will peel off in about two weeks.
Your bowel function will take several weeks to settle down, and it may be unpredictable at first. For most people, it will get back to normal with time.
People may have different bowel problems, such as:
- Irregular bowel habits
- Bowel movements that are loose
- Trouble controlling bowel movements with accidents or urgency
- A feeling that you need to keep having a bowel movement even if you have had several in a row
The first two weeks after your surgery, make sure you:
- Eat regular meals
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Take walks often
It is important to let us know if you are having very watery diarrhea more than six times each day. There is a bacterial infection that we may want to test you for if you are having a lot of watery diarrhea.
Most problems with diarrhea go away with time.
A firmer stool is easier to hold in and pass more completely. The first step to improve frequent or loose stools is to bulk up the stool with fiber.
Metamucil is the most common type of fiber. You can get it at any drug store. Talk with your surgeon before using this medicine, especially if you have an ileostomy.
- Start with one teaspoon mixed into food (like yogurt or oatmeal) in the morning and evening.
- Try not to drink any liquid for one hour after you take the fiber. This will let the fiber act like a sponge in your intestines and soak up all the extra water.
- Use it for three to five days.
- Use one teaspoon more every three to five days until you get your desired effect. You can use up to three teaspoons two times a day.
If Metamucil does not work, try over-the-counter Loperamide (Imodium), an antidiarrheal medicine.
- Take one tablet in the morning and evening or 30 minutes before meals.
- Take up to eight of tablets each day.
People can also be constipated after surgery from the narcotic pain medicine. If you have constipation for more than two days, take a laxative such as Milk of Magnesia. Do not use suppositories or enemas after surgery.
You may have gas pains during the first week after your surgery. This pain usually lasts for a few minutes but goes away between spasms.
Call us if you have:
- Severe pain lasting more than one to two hours
- A fever
- Feel sick
After surgery you may get a feeling that your bladder is not emptying all the way. This usually gets better with time.
Call us if you:
- Are not urinating
- Have stinging or burning while urinating (this is a sign of infection)
- You have any other concerns
It is normal to not have much of an appetite for a few weeks after surgery.
You may be on a low-fiber diet for four weeks after your surgery. The registered dietitian will talk with you about this while you are in the hospital. It is very easy to follow at home. Do not eat:
- Raw fruits
- Raw vegetables
- Whole grains
The above food groups may cause a blockage.
You may find some foods cause loose stools. If this happens, do not eat those foods for a few weeks after surgery. After a few weeks, try them again one at a time.
If you have an ileostomy:
- Do eat foods that can thicken the stool, such as:
- White bread
- Boiled rice or noodles
- Potatoes (without skin)
- Creamy peanut butter
- Eat five to six small meals throughout the day.
- Take small bites and chew food well.
- Do not eat
- Raw fruits
- Raw vegetables
- Whole grains
- Vegetables with a skin, such as:
- Do not eat three large meals
- Sip liquids all day. Do not drink a large amount at one time.
- Drink 10 to 12 cups of different liquids each day. This is about 2000 ml (64 ounces).
- Gatorade, green tea, milk, watered down fruit juice, and lemonade work well.
- Drinks with a lot of sugar can cause diarrhea.
- Alcohol, coffee, tea, soda, and sugary drinks (such as juice) can cause dehydration. They should not be used to help replace your liquids.
Plan to walk three or four times each day after you leave the hospital.
- Be able to climb stairs when you leave the hospital.
- Start doing many of your hobbies soon after your surgery. This will help you recover.
You should not:
- Lift more than ten pounds for four to six weeks
- Play contact sports for six weeks
- Put anything into your rectum for six weeks
Remember, it can take two to three months to fully recover. You may be tired and need an afternoon nap for four to six weeks after your surgery. Your body is using its energy to heal your wounds on the inside and out.
You should be able to go back to work four to six weeks after your surgery. If your job is a heavy manual job, you should not do heavy work until six weeks after your surgery.
Check with your employer on the rules and policies of your workplace. This is important to do before your surgery.
If you need Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork filled out for your employer, bring it with you to the hospital or fax it to our office at 319-356-4609.
You may drive when you are off narcotic medicines for 24 hours and pain-free enough to react quickly with your braking foot. For most people this is about two weeks after surgery.
You should be able to start having sexual intercourse after you have recovered from your surgery and you are not feeling any discomfort.
Some people having surgery near their pelvis may have sexual problems.
Men may experience problems with erection and ejaculation. This can happen because of damage to the nerves in the pelvis by radiation or surgery. Your surgeon will try not to damage nerves during surgery, but sometimes they may be damaged.
Women may experience pain during intercourse.
It is important to talk to your partner about how you are feeling. You should remember that your feelings can affect how you feel about yourself and your intimate relationships. Talking about your feelings with your partner will help with stress and anxiety.
Please talk to your surgeon if you are having problems. They may chose to refer you to a specialist who may be better to help you.