In recovery, nurses will monitor your vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
You may have a facial mask or small tubes in your nostrils giving you extra oxygen until you’re fully awake, and a drip attached to your cannula to give you fluids until you’re drinking normally.
Occasionally, if you’ve had a large flap (especially a free flap), you might be looked after in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) following the operation. The increased nurse-to-patient ratio means your flap can be closely monitored to detect any changes in blood circulation. You may also have additional drips and monitoring devices attached to you.
If you’re booked to stay in the ICU, you might like to ask a nurse on the ward if you can visit the unit the night before your operation, so you and your family know what to expect.
The length of time you'll spend in hospital varies tremendously depending on the site, size and type of the repair. If you’re having a simple graft in a day surgery you’ll be discharged the same day. A complicated flap may require observation in hospital for over a week.
Before discharge, you should be given specific advice about self-care at home. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully to promote correct healing. You’ll usually have to see your surgeon to have the sutures removed, and so they can check the progress of your wound(s).
Before leaving hospital, you should be clear on the following issues:
- Wound care
- Any changes to your usual medication
- Changes for which you should seek further medical attention, such as increased pain, signs of infection or discharge
- Follow-up appointments
- Whether the sutures used are dissolvable, and if not when you should see your doctor to get them removed
- Any restrictions on your normal level of activity
- When you can return to work