Advice following Bowel Surgery
Advice Following Bowel Surgery
Surgery on the bowel is a major physiological insult to your body and as such is no wonder you will not feel 'yourself' immediately after it. It typically takes between 2 and 6-weeks to fully recover after a bowel operation. The exact time depends on the type of surgery performed, your individual characteristics, other medical problems you may have, your 'outlook' on recovery and whether or not you have any complications after surgery. The following describes what typically may be expected after bowel surgery:
Following discharge from hospital, after bowel surgery, it is normal to experience some abdominal discomfort from either the wound or windy pain from the bowel itself. This will gradually improve over several weeks. You should continue taking the pain relieving drugs, which have been prescribed for you at the hospital, until you feel comfortable. If you need further supplies or your pain is not adequately controlled or your pain is getting worse you should see your GP.
You may have had your staples/stitches removed before you were discharged home from hospital. If your staples/stitches are still in place, the nursing staff on the ward will refer you to your District Nurse or Practice Nurse who will remove these 7-12 days following surgery. In some patients the would is closed with stitches under the skin which dissolve away on their own. The would will be covered with paper steri-strips, which you should leave in place until they fall off on their own.
Eating and Drinking
It may take a while before you get your normal appetite back. Instead of eating three meals a day it may be easier to have small and more frequent meals as you did whilst in hospital (see Enhanced Recovery Programme leaflet). After having an operation on your bowel, you should aim to gradually return to a normal balanced diet, including fruit, vegetables, whole-wheat cereals and bread, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Following bowel surgery your bowel habit may continue to be unpredictable. You may find that your bowel motion is looser, more frequent and/or urgent. It is important to drink plenty of fluids if you have diarrhoea to prevent dehydration. Occasionally people may experience constipation. It is normal to expect a lot of wind, sometimes associated with abdominal discomfort. This will gradually settle down over 2-3 months, although some people find that their bowel function never returns to its previous pattern.
Rest and Exercise
It is normal to feel tired and weak for up to three months after major surgery. This will gradually improve and you will become stronger each day. It is important that you rest when needed, however, this does not mean that you should confine yourself to bed.
If your wound has healed you can shower and bathe as normal, but make sure you can get in and out of the bath safely. If you anticipate and problems the Occupational Therapist at the hospital will be able to advise you on the availability of bathing aids.
You should wait at least 2 weeks before starting to drive again. This will depend on your ability to perform an emergency stop without causing discomfort to your abdomen and how comfortable it is to wear a seat belt. It is advisable to check your insurance policy to ensure you are covered after you have had an operation.
Feeling tired and weak after an operation or illness naturally affects your sex drive. As you gradually start to feel well again and your energy levels return to normal so should you sex drive. It is important for you and your partner to discuss your feelings openly.
Returning to Work
It is advisable to take a minimum of 2-4 weeks off work. The nature of your occupation and the surgery you have had performed will determine how soon you can return to work. It may be wise to go back part time until you have regained your strength. At your follow up appointment with your Surgeon you can discuss when you are going to be fit enough to return to work.
It is safe for you to travel abroad when you feel ready, but it is advisable to wait to be seen for your follow up appointment with your Surgeon.
You will be seen in the outpatient department of the hospital 6-weeks (or earlier) after your surgery. Any outstanding results will be discussed with you at this time. If you have had your operation for cancer you will be referred to an Oncologist (cancer specialist), they will then discuss with you any further treatment that may be necessary.
Who Can Help?
During your hospital stay you will have met the Colorectal Nurse Specialist who is available to provide information and give support to you and you family. Please remember that following your discharge home from hospital the Colorectal Nurse Specialist is still available to support you. If at any point you have any queries or concerns please telephone them.
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