After Surgery: Discomforts and Complications
What are some common post-op discomforts?
The amount of discomfort you have after surgery depends on many things, including the
type of surgery. Typical discomforts may include:
Nausea and vomiting from general anesthesia
Sore throat caused by the tube placed in the windpipe for breathing during surgery
Soreness, pain, and swelling around the incision site or minor pain around IV sites
Restlessness and sleeplessness
Constipation and gas
What complications may occur after surgery?
Complications can sometimes occur after surgery. The most common complications include:
Shock is a severe drop in blood pressure that causes a dangerous slowing of blood
flow throughout the body. Shock may be caused by blood loss, infection, spine injury,
or metabolic problems. Treatment may include any or all of the following:
Stopping any blood loss
Helping with breathing. This might be with a breathing machine.
Reducing heat loss
Giving IV fluids or blood
Giving extra oxygen
Prescribing medicines to help raise blood pressure.
Rapid blood loss from the site of surgery, for example, can lead to shock. Treatment
of rapid blood loss may include:
When bacteria enter the site of surgery, an infection can happen. Infections can delay
healing. Wound infections can spread to nearby organs or tissue, or to distant areas
through the bloodstream. Treatment of wound infections may include:
Deep vein thrombosis
A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a large vein deep inside a leg, arm, or
other part of the body. Symptoms are pain, swelling, tenderness, and skin redness
in a leg, arm, or other area. If you have these symptoms, call your healthcare provider.
In some cases, the clot can break off and travel to the lungs or brain. This can cause
a pulmonary embolism or a stroke. Compression stockings are often used for treatment.
They can also prevent DVTs.
The clot can break away from the vein and travel to the lungs. This clot is called
a pulmonary embolism. In the lungs, the clot can cut off the flow of blood. This is
a medical emergency and may cause death. If you have the following symptoms, call
911 or get emergency help right away. Symptoms are chest pain, trouble breathing,
coughing (may cough up blood), sweating, very low blood pressure, fast heartbeat,
light headedness, and fainting. Treatment depends on the location and size of the
blood clot. It may include:
Blood-thinner medicines (anticoagulants) to prevent more clots
Thrombolytic medicines to dissolve clots
Surgery or other procedures to remove the clot
Sometimes lung problems happen because you don’t do deep breathing and coughing exercises
within 48 hours of surgery. They may also happen from pneumonia or from inhaling food,
water, or blood into the airways. Symptoms may include wheezing, chest pain, shortness
of breath, fever, and cough. Getting up and walking around, deep breathing, and coughing
often can help reduce the chances for these problems. Treatment depends on the lung
problem and the cause.
This means you aren’t able to empty your bladder. This may be caused by the anesthesia
or certain surgeries. It is often treated by using a thin tube (catheter) to drain
the bladder. This is kept in place until you have regained bladder control. Sometimes
medicines to stimulate the bladder may be given.
Reaction to anesthesia
This is rare, but it does happen. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Treatment
of allergic reactions includes stopping specific medicines that may be causing the
reaction. You may also be given other medicines to treat the allergy. Tell your healthcare
team about any allergies you have before the surgery to minimize this risk. If an
allergic reaction does occur, ask what caused the allergy so you can stay away from
it for any future surgery.