At home After Ambulatory Surgery

Please follow the detailed instructions provided to you from the nurse upon discharge. Many of the functional limitations that you are experiencing now you will likely experience post-operatively. If you live alone, you need to make arrangements for someone to help during your initial recovery.

Helpful Hints

  • Organize your daily routine so items are easily accessible, like cookware
  • Dressing: Put your operative extremity in the clothes first when you get dressed. When getting undressed, take your operative extremity out last.
  • Food preparation: Make arrangements before your surgery if possible
  • How long your recovery will take depends on your personal goals, your general physical condition, and the nature of your surgery. The most critical period is the first few days and weeks, as you move toward achieving your goals. You will be guided by your surgeon and your healthcare team. On your first follow-up visit with your surgeon, you may receive new and/or additional instructions.

Home Pain Management

  • DO NOT drink alcoholic beverages or use street drugs when taking prescribed pain medication.
  • Avoid taking medication on an empty stomach.
  • You may get lightheaded after taking pain medication. Move slowly, especially when moving from a lying to standing position.
  • Take your pain medication 30-45 minutes before doing your prescribed exercises.
  • Drink a lot of water (at least eight-8 oz. glasses per day) to keep yourself well hydrated after surgery.
  • When possible, keep your surgical site elevated higher than the level of your heart. This will help to decrease pain and swelling.

Surgical Site Care

  • Keep the surgical site clean and dry at all times.
  • Do not put tight clothing over it.
  • Keep the surgical dressing on and follow the specific instructions provided by the nursing staff on your discharge instruction form.
  • Follow the provided discharge instruction form or discuss with your surgeon about when you may shower.

Common Post-Operative Reactions

As you might expect, your body will react to surgery in one or more ways:

  • Low grade fever (<101.5° F) for a week
  • Small amount of blood or fluid leaking from the surgical site
  • Bruising of the surgical extremity
  • Swelling of the surgical site and surrounding area
  • Call your surgeon if any of the follow occur:
  • Fever greater than 101.5° F
  • Severe, unexpected pain
  • Excessive bleeding or fluid coming from the surgical site
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Calf or thigh pain that is constant and does not go away with elevation or rest

If you experience these warning signs and are unable to reach your physician, proceed to the nearest hospital emergency department. The emergency room physician will contact your surgeon.

Call 911 right away if you experience any difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain with breathing, and/or chest pain!

*Adapted from: Hospital for Special Surgery, Your pathway to recovery: A patient’s guide to ambulatory surgery, 2005.