After Surgery - Frequently Asked Questions

This depends on the type of anesthesia you are given and your needs determined by the Anesthesiologist. Most often, your anesthesiologist and nursing staff will take you to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Many people remember the term "Recovery Room,” and that purpose has not changed. This nursing unit will help you recover from your experience of anesthesia and surgery until you are medically stable and safe to be cared for less intensively.
The PACU nursing staff will monitor your vital signs frequently. You will be encouraged to breathe deeply and cough as necessary. You may receive extra oxygen to breathe through a mask. The mask can be removed as soon as it is safe for you. If you received a regional anesthetic for your operation, the PACU nursing staff will touch you or ask you to move so they can check on your level of numbness.
Some types of anesthesia do not require care in the PACU and you may go directly to the outpatient or inpatient areas.
This varies on the type of surgical procedure and anesthesia type used. The average time for many patients in the PACU is about an hour, but may be as long as three hours. Nursing staff will notify your family and friends when you are admitted to the PACU after your surgery.
Family is not allowed in this "primary" recovery area. This allows the PACU nursing staff to focus on you and your recovery. When you are taken to a "secondary" recovery area, or to your hospital room, you may have up to two people with you.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that you will not feel sick to your stomach after surgery. Nausea after surgery is due to many factors. Some of these factors include your age or gender, anxiety level, reaction to anesthesia medications and the length of surgery. With new methods of anesthesia care and new anti-nausea medications now available, the chance that you will feel nauseous is much lower than it has been in the past. However, if it occurs, you will be offered medication to treat the nausea.
Each person feels pain differently, and people feel different amounts or types of discomfort after surgery. Please do not think you need to suffer in silence without communicating your discomfort. If you experience pain, the PACU nursing staff will give medication to you until the discomfort is tolerated. You will be asked about your level of pain, and if the medications or treatments made any difference. For certain procedures, your surgeon may order a machine called a patient-controlled analgesia pump (PCA). You will receive instructions on how it works and how you can best use it to treat pain and discomfort.
Sometimes your anesthesiologist may recommend a regional block for certain types of surgeries (i.e. a total knee replacement) to help prevent pain sensations after surgery.
You will leave the recovery area only after your anesthesiologist and the nursing staff agree that it is safe. Where you go next will depend on the way you were scheduled for surgery.
If you are going to be an inpatient, you will be transported on a stretcher, or on your hospital bed, to the nursing floor. The hospital has both private and semi-private rooms; if you wish to stay in a private room make sure you inform the hospital staff when you are admitted.
If you are scheduled as an outpatient, and expect to go home that day, you will be returned to the Surgical Care Center. You may be seated in a lounging chair and have an opportunity to drink fluids.
The nursing staff will allow you to be discharged once they know it is safe for you. You may need to demonstrate that you can drink fluids or take food without severe nausea or vomiting. Your surgeon may have other requirements to meet before you can be safely discharged. The nursing staff will review all of your surgeon's instructions for how to care for yourself over the next few days and give you written information. Your family or companions are welcome to hear all of this information and all can ask questions. It is important that you know what to expect and what signs or symptoms to report to your surgeon immediately.
You may be drowsy, weak or unsteady on your feet; that is why the hospital insists a companion take you home. Nursing or volunteer staff will take you in a wheelchair to the hospital entrance and help you transfer to your companion's car for your ride home.
Your surgeon will identify any particular restrictions on your activity, and the nursing staff will review them with you before discharge. However, you have received relaxing drugs (tranquilizers, sedatives, narcotics) as part of any anesthesia. You should not drive or operate any heavy machinery for at least the next 24 hours. You should not take alcohol or other drugs without your surgeon's permission. You should not sign any legal papers, agreements or contracts.