• After Surgery

    After Surgery

    • Specialty Unit for Monitoring of Patients Following Surgery
    • Subspecialization of Recovery Room Units exist for Care of Patients Following Cardiac Surgery, NeuroSurgery, etc.
    • For Most Surgery the Stay in the Recovery is Relatively Short (1-2 times length of surgery) prior to transfer to room or discharge facility for ambulatory patients
    • Lines and Monitors Vary – but expect at the minimum an IV (intravenous line), ECG or EKG (heart monitor), blood pressure monitor, and pulse oximeter (measures the amount of oxygen in your blood)
    • Medications most commonly given are those for pain, nausea, and sometimes antibiotics.
    • Generally not the most private of environments but fortunately most patients are sedated enough not to care
    • Visitor policies vary by facility but are limited


    Yes!!!!! Surgery is over and you are now in the recovery room. You find yourself in bed that resembles a crib. You check to confirm that everything is in place and you made it through OK. This may be a little beyond your capabilities at the moment. Don’t worry. You are still be groggy from all the sedatives and anesthesia you got prior to and during surgery. As you are coming out of this anesthesia-induced fog, you may notice a lot of nurses moving around, checking blood pressures and reading computers that are hooked up to you and fellow post-surgical brethren. So a good alternative would be to ask them how things went and let them know if you are having any pain or any sort of distress.

    The immediate time after surgery can be critical in terms of the surgical recovery and the success of the procedure. In this way, the recovery room is very much like an intensive care unit. Nurses will be checking your surgical dressings and wounds and a variety of lines and tubes to assess how you are doing. You will still have attached all of the electrodes, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and intravenous lines that were placed in the operating room. At the very minimum, they will be checking lines to record your heart rhythm and rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygenation of your blood.

    Some surgeries require different lines and tubes attached to your body. For example some people need a foley catheter placed in their bladder to monitor their urine output. Lines may have been placed directly into a large vein or peripheral artery to measure directly your venous and arterial pressures. Arterial lines can cause problems such as infection and an even more severe problem an interference of blood flow to the hand. Both issues are rare but still happen at a statistically low rate. The good news is your blood tests can be drawn directly from the arterial line, which translates into fewer needle sticks!

    Other patients may require a drain in the surgical area to remove any residual blood or other fludis. Drains are also placed where there is an infection or concern about an infection. Here is a list of common questions related to the recovery room:

    What can I do to help in the recovery room?

    This question is most easily answered in one word “nothing”. You are still recovering from your surgery and anesthesia and chances are you will not really be with it for most of your time in the recovery room. You should really try to relax, get your rest and let the professionals do their job. Make staff aware of any nausea, surgical pain, chest pain, or breathing problems that you may be having. that occur while there.

    If you are an ambulatory patient make sure ahead of time that there is somebody to drive you home. Hopefully, your surgeon has given your written instructions before surgery and you both have discussed your post-operative care before the surgery. It is unlikely that you will remember any instructions given in the recovery room.

    May I have visitors in the recovery room

    The quick answer is no, since recovery areas are very busy areas with staff attending to semi-conscious patients. Frankly, visitors often get in the way. Other patients may find your visitors disturbing and the visitors themselves may not be prepared for what they find. Even when a recovery room has a strict no visitor policy, there are usually two exceptions:

    1. The first is for pediatric surgery. The recovery experience is tough enough for most adults. A child can really use the support of a parent.
    2. Another instance can be when an adult is going to be in the recovery room for a long period of time.


    How long can I expect to stay in the recovery room?

    A good rule of thumb is one to two times the duration of anesthesia received. Therefore, if you are under anesthesia for an hour, you would spend about two hours in the recovery room. This part is not an exact science. It does not take into account any complications that could arise while in the recovery room. It is important to remember that a longer stay in recovery does not necessarily mean the surgery has complications. Some patients stay longer because of their sensitivity to the anesthesia. Other times you may be ready to leave the recovery room, but no one is available to discharge you as it is the time for the change of shift of nurses.

    You will not be released from the recovery room until you are functioning at a good level. For ambulatory surgeries you will need to be able to sit up or walk on your own. Remember, no driving!!!

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