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Home > Health Library > Postoperative Problems
Many people do not feel well after surgery. Pain, nausea, and a lack of energy may occur even after a minor surgery. Usually, getting some rest and following the instructions your surgeon gave you will help postoperative problems diminish over time.
Different types of surgery require different home care instructions. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow after your surgery. This includes learning about your medicines, diet restrictions, wound care, showering or bathing, and finding out when you can return to your regular activities. Your surgeon may think that you understand more than you really do about what you should or should not do when you return home. If you have any questions about your discharge instructions, be sure to ask your surgeon.
Your surgeon will want to talk to you if you:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Severe vomiting can mean that:
If you have pain when you are breathing, you may be at immediate risk for a pulmonary embolism if you also have:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Several types of medicines can be used to treat pain.
Pain medicines may be over-the-counter (OTC) medicines—like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Ask your doctor which OTCs are safe for you to use.
Your doctor may prescribe other pain medicines. These may include some NSAIDs that aren't OTC medicines.
Opioids are strong medicines. They may be prescribed if your doctor thinks you may need them to relieve moderate to severe pain.
To avoid the risk of side effects from pain medicine, take the lowest dose that works to relieve your pain.
Take pain medicines exactly as prescribed or according to the label on the medicine bottle and box.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Urinary tract infections may occur in the bladder or kidneys. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of infection may include:
Neurological symptoms—which may be signs of a problem with the nervous system—can affect many body functions. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Write down your symptom or problem. It may help you become more aware of your specific symptom or problem or give you ideas about its cause. It will also help prepare you to talk to your surgeon about what you are experiencing.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
You may be able to prevent problems after surgery by taking steps beforehand to improve your health.
Be sure to follow all of your surgeon's instructions after surgery to prevent problems. You may be instructed to:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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