After surgery, the amount of time spent in the holding area, the operating room, and the recovery room depends on the type of surgery performed, the type of anesthesia given, and how long it takes the anesthesia to wear off after the operation.

The preoperative period is a good time to ask questions about what will happen after surgery and knowing what to expect can help ease the fear that things are not going right.

Pain After Surgery

Most patients experience discomfort after the anesthesia wears off. Some experience pain and nausea and others have minimal soreness. Patients may be asked to rate their pain on a 1–10 scale to determine their level of discomfort. Slight pain is 1–2; annoying pain, 3–4; significant pain, 5–6; severe pain, 7–8; and excruciating pain, 9–10. The pain scale helps nurses and physicians determine the proper pain medication. After receiving the medication, patients may be asked again to rate their pain to evaluate the medication's effectiveness.

If an agent was used to control bleeding during surgery—for example, Raplixa, which was approved by the FDA in April 2015—the spray-dried sealant may increase post-surgical pain and also can cause nausea, constipation, fever, and low blood pressure after surgery.

Seeing Family after Surgery

Family members are usually allowed to see patients once the anesthesia has worn off and they have been transferred to their room. There are usually areas where the family can wait while the surgery is in progress.

Getting Back to Routine after Surgery

How soon the patient can get up, shower, and eat depends on the type of surgery, recovery, and the treatment plan. Most patients can get out of bed the day after surgery.

Hospital Discharge after Surgery

The surgeon determines when a patient is discharged from the hospital. In most cases, the patient must be able to walk, eat, drink, and urinate, and must no longer need IV fluids or medication.

Returning to Work after Surgery

The ability to return to work or school, drive, climb stairs, and lift heavy objects depends on the type of surgery, recovery, and the patient's overall health and age.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Oct 2001

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015