After Your Surgery

By Floria, Barbara

If you're scheduled for major surgery, take some time beforehand to organize and plan for both your hospital stay and your care after discharge. Getting discharge instructions in advance can help you prepare for what you can and can't do when you return home.

To prepare for your surgery:

  • Verify insurance coverage. Be sure you have followed all the pre-certifications required by your health insurance company. Not doing so, or doing so improperly, may mean you'll have to pay more for your surgery and aftercare.

  • Make a plan. Start by making a list of who'll be helping you after you get home and what they'll need on hand. Depending on the procedure you have, you may need transportation, a home health care nurse, a wheelchair, or oxygen supplies.

  • Make arrangements to get a handicapped tag for your car, if you'll need one. For more information regarding tags, contact your local motor vehicle department.

  • Ask questions. No doubt you and your family will have questions regarding your post-op care. Make a list of these questions to help ensure you get the answers you need.

What to ask

Questions to ask include:

  • Will I be able to take care of my personal needs?

  • Will I be able to walk without assistance?

  • Will I be able to use stairs?

  • When can I bathe or shower?

  • How should I take care of the incision?

  • What kinds of symptoms could indicate something is wrong?

  • Are there any restrictions on my activities or diet?

  • When can I go back to work?

  • What medications should I take?

Prepare your home

By evaluating your home for safety and ease in functioning before your surgery, you can avoid inconveniences and obstacles to your recovery.

If you live in a multilevel residence, consider where you'll stay after coming home. For example, if your bedroom is on the second floor, you may want to set up a temporary bed on the main floor.

Check any steps inside and outside your home and make sure sturdy handrails are in place. Consider installing rails on both sides of steps for maximum safety.

If you have children or pets, make arrangements for their care while you're in the hospital and during your first few days at home, if needed.

Move a comfortable chair or sofa with a high seat to a place where you like to sit. Low or soft sofas or chairs can be difficult to get in and out of.

Going home

Being discharged from the hospital can take some time. When you're ready to leave, here are some things you may need to do:

  • Meet with a social worker, discharge planner, or case manager from the hospital. These professionals can help you get medical equipment such as walkers, deal with mental health issues related to surgery, and provide emotional support and contacts with area agencies for you and your family.

  • Have someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least the first 24 hours.

  • Have a prescription for a pain reliever. Be sure to take any narcotics, such as Percocet or Oxycodone, according to your doctor's instructions. Don't drive or drink alcohol when taking these drugs.

  • Contact your surgeon immediately if you have a fever higher than 100.5 degrees or swelling, redness, or drainage of the surgery site.

  • Follow the specific instructions your surgeon provides when you're discharged. Be sure you understand them and write them down so you can review them later.

  • Keep your follow-up appointment with your surgeon.

Medical Reviewer: [Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH, Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN, Lambert, J.G. M.D.] Last Annual Review Date: 2008-03-15T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications


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