Post-Surgery Guidelines: Tips for a Smooth Recovery
We stopped taking antibiotics after we began feeling better, or perhaps, began exercising
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. But after a surgery, it’s important to follow doctors’ discharge orders to avoid complications such as blood clots or infections.
Blood clots can form any time you are sedentary because the lack of movement allows blood to pool and clot. If the clot travels to the heart or brain, this can be deadly. Blood clots affect approximately 900,000 Americans every year and about three percent of patients who undergo joint replacement, according to the CDC. As many as 100,000 people per year die from a blood clot.
There are three main tips to prevent blood clots: exercise at the level you are able, wear compression stockings to help prevent blood from pooling in the legs, and take blood thinning medication as prescribed.
However, a recent University of Michigan study found that aspirin was just as effective in preventing blood clots after surgery as blood thinners, which can sometimes cause dangerous bleeding. If you don’t have any risk factors, such as using oral contraceptives or smoking, you may be able to take aspirin instead of an anticoagulant. “Most people can get aspirin alone without much concern,” says lead author, Dr. Brian R. Hallstrom.
Infection is another risk. Infection can occur at the surgery site, or from another exposure—for example, an infection in the mouth can spread and affect a joint replacement. Therefore, it’s important to not only take good care of your wound and take antibiotics if prescribed, but also clean and cover any new cuts or burns and maintain good oral hygiene.
Most doctors now allow patients to shower soon after their surgery. Previously, doctors recommended waiting 10-14 days before taking a shower; however, a 2016 study from Loyola University found that taking a shower, only two days after surgery didn’t increase the risk of infection.
And lastly, about that pesky side effect of painkillers: staying regular. To prevent constipation, follow the guidelines you might expect: drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day; eat high-fiber foods, such as bran cereal, beans, and fruits; exercise; and set aside a dedicated time during the day to have a bowel movement.
Proactive Steps to have a Successful Surgery
- Follow your doctor’s instructions, care for your wound, take medication as prescribed, and go to appointments.
- Consume plenty of protein (which has been shown to improve recovery), zinc, vitamin C, B vitamins, and fiber. Drink clear fluids.
- Consume anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli and ginger, and consider supplementing with omega-3s, which can help reduce inflammation during recovery.
- Exercise, before and after surgery.
- Quit or limit smoking. Patients who smoked right before surgery had a greater chance of developing an infection, according to a 2017 study in JAMA Surgery.