Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
Your surgery is over now what should you expect? Well, this question should be asked before you undergo surgery, ideally during an outpatient visit even before you sign the surgical consent. Undergoing surgery disrupts many aspects of your life and is best managed when you understand the post-surgical expectations.
The first question you should ask is how long will you be in the hospital. This should be followed by how long is the recovery period? This will give you an idea of how much time you will need to take off work and how to arrange assistance with other daily activities such as housework, shopping and cooking. If you are responsible for caring for children or elderly parents then this must also be considered. Even when you have returned to work there will still be some after effects. After major surgery some women bounce back immediately and others take several months to feel normal again.
How will you feel immediately after surgery? Should someone be at the hospital with you? How much pain will you be in and what medications will you need to take after the surgery? These are all important points to understand. Some women feel reasonably well after surgery while others are quite drowsy and some have significant nausea. The postoperative care involves managing these unwanted effects.
Women undergoing a hysterectomy may feel extremely well or have a lot of pain or nausea. This is dependent on the surgical route and on individual reaction. After an abdominal hysterectomy most women will have a good amount of pain and require analgesics, especially narcotic base. This can contribute to drowsiness and nausea. Those who have the procedure through a less invasive route will require less analgesia and likely experience less medication side effects.
There are expectations of you as well. Your cooperation is required to minimize unwanted complications and to detect problems early. You physician may instruct you to be mobile early in the postoperative process and even though you maybe uncomfortable it is important to do as instructed. This will decrease your chance of developing a venous thrombosis or a pulmonary embolus, which is the common cause of death in women undergoing gynecologic surgery. The risk is low but present. You may also be instructed to do some breathing exercises through a device. This is designed to help your lung expand and minimize the risk of pneumonia. Finally, make sure you understand and follow the postoperative instructions closely and follow up as instructed.
The postoperative office visit is designed to review the surgery, ensure that you are healing as expected and provide instructions for returning to normal activity. At this visit, any histopathology reports should be reviewed. Ask for a copy so you can keep for your records. Finally the doctor should tell you what is your required follow up. For instance, after a cone biopsy of the cervix for dysplasia, a pap smear every 4-6 months maybe required.
It is important that you understand every step of the surgical process. Take notes, ask questions and do your research. When you visit your doctors, be prepared. Ask focused, direct questions. I highly recommend that you take your spouse, other relative or trusted friend along with you, as two sets of ears are better than one. Be your own health advocate. This will increase your chance of having a satisfactory outcome.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!