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Abdominal Surgery Post-Operative Instructions


Operations on the small intestine, colon or rectum are considered major surgery. Most people stay in the hospital for about 7 days after their operation, but from 4 to 14 days is considered normal. How soon you go home will depend on how well you are eating, how well your bowels are moving, and how well you are managing your pain. When you are stable in these areas and without other complications, you will be discharged.

After Discharge

Bowel Function: After removal of a portion of the intestines, it is normal for bowel movements to be erratic. They are often looser and more frequent. This condition generally resolves within a few weeks or it can be controlled with diet or medication.

Diet: In general, you may return to a well-balanced diet upon discharge. Your doctor will let you know when to add extra fiber to your diet.

Medications: You will be discharged with a prescription for pain medications and any medicines you were taking before surgery. If you need additional medicines or a refill, you must call your doctor during normal business hours. Our policy is that we do not refill pain medication prescriptions after hours or on weekends because your chart is not available. The doctor on call is not allowed to refill your prescription.

Incision: You should expect some discomfort in the area of your incision, particularly as you increase your activity. If you notice an area of increasing redness or new drainage, please call your doctor.

Activity: Gradually increase your activity each day. There are generally no restrictions on walking, climbing stairs or riding in a car. Ask your physician regarding resumption of physical sexual activity. Your physician will advise you about when to return to work.

Follow-Up: Typically, you will be asked to schedule a follow-up office visit one to four weeks after surgery. If you have any questions related to follow-up, medication, or your condition, please call the office.

Causes For Concern 
If any of the following occur, please call our office and speak with the nurse who will help you with your problem or ask the doctor to call you.

  • Problems with the incision, including increasing pain, swelling, redness or drainage.
  • Increasing abdominal pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Constipation (no bowel movement for three days).
  • Diarrhea (more than three watery stools within 24 hours).
  • Bleeding from the rectum, wound or stoma.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: What medications will I need at home?
A: You will be given pain medication. You should resume your usual medications if directed to do so by your doctor. If you need a refill for a pain medication, you must call your pharmacy during normal business hours. Our policy is that we do not refill pain medications or prescriptions after hours or on the weekends because your chart is not available. The doctor on call is not allowed to refill your prescription.

Q: How soon can I drive?
A: You can usually drive one week to ten days after you leave the hospital. 

Q: When can I go back to work?
A: You can usually go back to work three to four weeks after surgery.

Q: What will I have to do at home?
A: You will be able to care for yourself, but you may need some assistance with cooking, housekeeping and grocery shopping.

Q: Do I need someone to stay with me at home?
A: It would be preferable to have someone stay with you.

Q: When can I have sex?
A: In most cases, you can resume sex after a few weeks.

If your doctor is not available, a doctor on call is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. After hours, call any of our offices and the answering service will locate one of our doctors. In an emergency, try to contact us for advice before you go to the hospital. A telephone call may save you a lot of time, discomfort and expense.