post op checklist

After you have an operation, the most important thing is to take care of yourself and follow all the necessary steps to heal and recover. You should complete the post-op directions given to you by a medical professional, but to help, we compiled a comprehensive post-op checklist for you. If you follow all the recommendations and still have complications after an operation, it may not be your fault. Call (561) 655-1990 for a free consultation with a Florida medical malpractice lawyer.

Easing Your Recovery

Taking the following steps will help ease your recovery after an operation. These universal steps are recommended by many doctors to promote healthy healing after surgery.

1. Avoid drinking alcohol, making important decisions, or engaging in any potentially hazardous activities for at least 2 days after surgery.

Hazardous activities include driving, so make sure that you have someone to drive you home after your operation, and don’t drive for a few days afterwards. Do not drive at all until you are off of narcotic pain medications. It is best if there is someone at home with you to assist you if you need help for the first few days.

Try to avoid cooking or bathing unattended, if possible, because pain, weakness, confusion, or side effects of medication can potentially cause you to burn yourself or lose your balance and fall. Avoiding alcohol right after your surgery is important, because alcohol will worsen any negative symptoms you might be having.

2. Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids.

It’s important to stay hydrated to help you heal. Nausea is to be expected, but you still need to keep drinking water. Other clear fluids are also okay, so some lemon-lime soda or ginger ale may help if you have an upset stomach. If you are sleeping a lot, make sure to set alarms to wake up and drink fluids, or have a caretaker wake you every so often so you can stay hydrated.

3. Eat something when taking pain medication.

If you are taking prescribed pain medication, you should eat something along with it. Taking pain medication on an empty stomach can cause nausea and even vomiting, so always eat something, even if you’re not hungry. You may not feel like eating, but liquid foods like soup, yogurt, or jello may go down easier if you can’t manage solid foods yet.

4. Bathe with a washcloth for the first 2 days after surgery, and don’t submerge the incision until sutures are removed.

It’s important to keep up with hygiene while you are healing to reduce your chances of infection, but avoid showers and baths right after surgery. Use a washcloth to bathe for the first two days, and then after that, just make sure to avoid submerging the incision site in water until the doctor has removed the sutures. This step is important, because if you submerge the incision, you could open the wound or risk infection. Refer to your doctor’s recommendations for when and how to bathe after the first few days, as different operations have different requirements.

5. Increase fiber intake in the weeks following surgery.

Anesthesia, pain medications, and reduced activity can cause constipation in post-op patients. To help combat this, you should increase your fiber intake for several weeks after surgery. A high-fiber diet and lots of hydration can help you avoid constipation. You should prevent any additional sources of pain and stress on your body, so be sure to follow this step on the post-op checklist. 

6. Be as active as possible while protecting the surgical area.

In the first few days after your operation, staying active might be the last thing you feel like doing, but being as active as possible has many health benefits. First, movement and activity stimulates the bowels, so this can help prevent constipation. Second, staying active, even for short periods at a time, can help prevent blood clots. Blood clots can cause serious health problems, so a little activity is worth it.

Listen to your body and don’t overexert yourself, but try to get up and walk around every so often. While you are staying active, take care to protect the surgical area. Be mindful of your healing area and don’t overdo it. If you had foot surgery, moving your legs around or doing doctor-recommended exercises may be better than walking. Do your best to stay active, even if it’s only for a few minutes every couple hours.

7. Watch for signs of infection.

Be vigilant and keep an eye out for signs of infection. If your incision feels hot or is warm to the touch, your body may be telling you that you have an infection. After surgery, redness around the incision site is to be expected, but it should decrease as the incision heals. If your incision site begins to look more red, or if you develops red streaks around it, you may have an infection. You’ll want to get this checked right away because the infection can spread to other parts of the body.

Also keep an eye on your incision and make sure it’s not draining pus. If your incision is leaking a funky-smelling thick liquid, you may have an infection. This drainage may look white, green, yellow, or bloody. If the incision begins to swell or harden over time, this may point to infection. Your pain level is also something you should be cognizant of. Your pain should decrease over time after surgery.

Although it’s normal to experience an increase in pain after activity or as you decrease your pain medication, it’s a red flag if your pain is getting worse steadily or suddenly. That can be a sign of infection.

Following the post-op checklist can help you reduce your chances of infection, but infections can still happen even if you’re doing all the right things. This may be because your body is having a negative response to the surgery, or because the doctor did something wrong.

If you suffered post-surgery complications, don’t assume it’s your fault.

You may have followed all the post-op recommendations and are still suffering from complications from your surgery. If this happens to you, know that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your fault. Doctors have a duty to give their patients thorough post-operative care instructions. If your doctor failed to tell you important information about your surgery, and as a result you got an infection or suffered other post-op complications, this could be medical malpractice.

Also, if you are not healing well after your surgery, there may be a chance the doctor did something incorrectly during the surgery, which could also be medical malpractice. If you are suffering complications after your surgery, call (561) 655-1990 to schedule a free case consultation with an attorney at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.