A lot of you might be wondering, “What is post operative care?” Post-surgical care, or post-operative care, refers to a person’s medical care after a surgery or other operation. The specific kinds of care a person receives will depend upon the type of surgery they’ve undergone and a range of medical factors like age, health, and medical history.
Post-surgical care, including wound care, physical therapy, and pain management, begins immediately after surgery. It includes any care you receive in the hospital or recovery center during your stay, as well as any care you may need after discharge.
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into the kinds of post-surgical care you might receive in the hospital, at home, or in outpatient rehabilitation centers. As a patient armed with this information, you’ll be prepared to consult with your doctor about the kinds of ongoing care you’ll need. That way, you can plan for the days, weeks, and even months following your surgery.
In-Hospital Post-Surgical Care
In-hospital post-surgical care is the care you receive during your hospital stay. This is the first stage of your post-surgical care and begins immediately following your operation.
When your surgery is complete, you’ll be transferred from the operating area to a recovery room, where your doctors and nurses will closely monitor you for common post-surgical complications.
During this stage, the medical staff will monitor your:
- Blood pressure
- Wound infection
- Any complication
They’ll also examine you for signs of infection, bleeding, blood clot, and allergic reactions. Many surgical procedures require an anesthetic, which has been known to cause allergic reactions in some patients. If you receive a general anesthetic, you’ll stay in the recovery room until you regain consciousness.
Post-Surgical Care for Inpatient vs. Outpatient Surgeries
How long can you expect to spend in the hospital receiving post-surgical care? It all depends on the specifics of your surgery.
Generally, any surgical procedure is classified in one of two ways: inpatient surgeries and outpatient surgeries.
Surgeries that require you to stay in the hospital overnight or longer are classified as inpatient surgeries. These surgeries carry greater risks for complications, longer recovery times, and more intensive post-operative care. Such surgeries include:1
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Coronary artery bypass
- Heart valve repair/replacement
- Intestinal endoscopy
By contrast, outpatient surgeries—also known as “same-day” surgeries—are usually less complicated and require less immediate care or observation. Cataract surgeries, lumpectomies, and minor operations to repair muscles, joints, and tendons are all examples of outpatient surgeries.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at how in-hospital post-surgical care will differ based on the specifics of your procedure.
In-Hospital Post-Surgical Care for Inpatient Surgeries
For inpatient surgeries your post-surgical care will begin in the recovery room right after your operation. However, consider that many of these surgeries require you to remain in the hospital overnight or for a few days to weeks following your operation.
At this point in your recovery, you might need one or several of the following medical devices:
- An intravenous catheter (IV) in your arm
- Dressing or bandages at the site of your surgery
- A pulse oximeter on your finger to measure blood oxygen levels
- A heartbeat monitor
- Tubes in your nose, mouth, or bladder
- A breathing apparatus
As your hospital stay progresses, staff will continue to monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Depending on your surgery, they may even administer medications or pain relievers to speed up wound healing. These might be given orally, by injection, or through your IV tube.
Talk to your doctor or surgeon in advance of your surgery to understand the likely length of your stay, but keep in mind that your final discharge date will be decided by your doctor based on the rate of your recovery.
Surgical complications like infections and allergic reactions can delay your discharge. Recovery is different for each individual, so the length of your hospital stay will vary depending on your personal medical history and other factors.2
In-Hospital Post-Surgical Care for Outpatient Surgeries
For outpatient surgeries, or same-day surgeries, you’ll be discharged from the hospital on the same day of the operation. Outpatient surgeries usually carry low risks of complications and shorter recovery periods.
However, it’s important to know that even outpatient procedures can result in unexpected complications and longer hospital stays.
- The post operative period for outpatient procedures still requires you to spend some time in a recovery room while your medical team can watch for complications.
- They’ll also monitor your breathing and verify that you can perform regular functions like drinking and using the bathroom before discharging you.
You may still need off-site care even following outpatient surgeries. Your doctor should provide you with a comprehensive list of discharge instructions informing you if and what kind of further care is needed and what to expect from your recovery.
At Home Post-Surgical Care
Whether your surgery is inpatient or outpatient, there’s a good chance that you’ll need some sort of post-surgical care at-home care following your discharge from the hospital.
It can be daunting to imagine taking care of yourself after surgery, so be sure to talk with your doctor beforehand about what kind of care you’ll need. In addition, talk to friends, family, and your insurer to make sure you have adequate help. After all, planning can help relieve some of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Like all post-surgical care, the type of care you’ll need at home will depend on your surgery and your medical history. The most important thing you can do to hasten your recovery and get back to health is following the instructions of your physician.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself at Home
Your medical team should provide you with personalized care instructions before you leave the hospital, so don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if anything is confusing. In the meantime, here are some standard tips for speeding your recovery and taking care of yourself at home after surgery:
- Take all medications as prescribed – After your surgery, you may be prescribed medication to help your recovery. It’s important never to miss a dose.
- Keep an eye out for common surgical complications – Post-surgery complications such as increased pain, infection, chest pain, bleeding, unusual swelling at the surgical site, pulmonary complications, blood loss, and fever can signal the need for more rigorous care. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Attend all follow-up appointments – After your surgery, your doctor will schedule a series of follow-up appointments to ensure that you and your surgical wounds are making progress. You must keep all of these appointments so that any potential complications can be flagged and dealt with before they become more serious. Even something as simple as thorough wound care can speed up recovery.
- Rest – Depending on your surgery, you may need to take some time to recuperate afterward. Your body needs to rest to heal properly, so don’t over-exert yourself.
- Stay active – On the other hand, it can be important to remain active during your recovery. Simple tasks like walking around or standing can help reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Other low-impact exercises can help keep your muscles healthy and active during your recovery. Your doctor will be more specific, but in general, it’s a good idea to work yourself back to your everyday routine gradually.
Professional At-Home Care
After some surgeries, it can be helpful or even necessary to have a professional care attendant to help you at home once you’ve left the hospital. Between medications, follow-up appointments, and knowing what activities you should and should not be doing, recovery can be overwhelming for you and your family.
If you’ve had a major surgery—for example, hip replacement, knee replacement, or a cardiovascular procedure—you might find it very difficult to perform simple, everyday tasks you once took for granted.
Having qualified in-home care professionals can help ease your recovery and your mind during the process. Even a nurse can provide invaluable help with:
- Organizing and administering medications
- Bathing and cleaning
- Meal preparation
- Wound care at home
At-home care professionals can also accompany you to follow-up appointments, ensuring that you and the people in charge of your care are always updated about your recovery status. They can also provide much-needed companionship during your recovery.
Your doctor will be able to tell you if at-home help will be needed during your recovery, so ask them about it.
Regain Your Peace of Mind with Alliance Homecare
An upcoming surgery—even if it’s a minor, outpatient procedure—can be a source of great stress. From worrying about the operation itself to making proper arrangements for your recovery, you’ll probably have many pots boiling at once.
That’s where Alliance Homecare comes in. We offer a range of at-home, post-surgical care services that can ease the recovery process and bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones. Our caring and highly qualified nurses collaborate with your medical team to ensure that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible.
We know it can be scary to entrust your or your loved one’s nursing care to a stranger. That’s why at Alliance Homecare we are highly selective in our hiring process. Our nurses are among the best and brightest in their field. Their expertise comes from years of experience at some of the most highly regarded medical centers in the country, and their reputations are without flaw.
When you choose Alliance Homecare for your at-home, post-surgical needs, you can be assured that you’ll receive the best care from the most qualified people. Let Alliance Homecare handle the details so you can focus on your health.
- BeckersHospitalReview.com. 14 Most Common Inpatient Surgical Procedures. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/14-most-common-inpatient-surgical-procedures.html
- World Health Organization. Postoperative care. https://www.who.int/surgery/publications/Postoperativecare.pdf