Afterwards you’ll be taken to the recovery room or intensive care unit.
Nurses will closely monitor your breathing and vital signs. You’ll initially have a mask or small tubes in your nostrils giving you extra oxygen. You may have a drain in your abdomen to safely remove any excess fluid.
You may also have a urinary catheter. A nasogastric tube – a tube passed through your nose into your stomach – is occasionally required. You’ll also have an IV line for delivering analgesics and fluids.
You’ll be fitted with special compression stockings to wear on both legs. You may also be given calf pumps which inflate intermittently. The stockings and calf pumps are designed to help reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis. You may also be given blood-thinning drugs to further reduce your risk.
Getting mobile again
You may be surprised that your nurses will encourage you to stand up quite soon after surgery. This is to speed up your recovery and reduce your risks of complications. You’ll usually be helped into a chair, and possibly take a small walk soon after your surgery.
Nurses will also encourage you to take deep breaths after your operation and a physiotherapist will help you with exercises that expand your lungs. Because of your incision, this may be painful.
Eating and drinking
You’ll need to remain on the IV drip to stay hydrated until you can eat and drink normally. Some surgeons will wait for signs that your bowel is working again (usually by listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope). Others will encourage you start eating and drinking sooner, beginning with liquids first.
If you’ve had a stoma created the stoma therapist (specialist nurse) and the nurses on the ward will care for it initially and teach you or your carer how to do manage it. Everyone will be sensitive about how you feel having a stoma and they’ll help and support you while you adjust, whether it’s temporary or permanent.
You’ll probably stay in hospital for several days after surgery. Your length of stay depends on how well you progress and whether there are any complications. The average length of stay is 5 to 10 days.