The activities and interventions below help you recover from your surgery.  Your active participation in these measures can increase your chances of a smooth recovery.

Breathing Well | Moving Around | Staying Comfortable | Additional Questions

Breathing Well

After surgery, you will need to take deep, slow breaths and exhale slowly to expand the small sacs in your lungs and help keep your lungs and air passages free of fluid accumulation.

To promote normal breathing patterns, you must sigh or yawn deeply several times each hour.  Your normal breathing pattern can change and become shallower after chest or abdominal surgery, after general anesthesia, or when you are inactive.  If this occurs, it is important to try to resume your normal breathing pattern by taking deep breaths.  This deep breathing exercise also stimulates the cough reflex to help you cough up secretions. 

If you had chest or abdominal surgery, you can splint your incision for comfort while deep breathing and coughing: place your hands flat on top of each other and apply slight pressure to the surgical site.  You also can firmly hold a pillow across the surgical site to help you breathe deeply and cough.

Upon your doctor’s order, a respiratory therapist will see you after surgery to teach you how to use an incentive spirometer, a deep-breathing exercise that promotes good lung expansion.  Your nurse will remind and encourage you to perform these simple, yet very important breathing exercises.

Moving Around

Early movement after surgery contributes to good circulation, prevents blood pooling in the veins of the leg and helps you to breathe.  Maintaining good circulation promotes rapid healing of incisions, maintains muscle strength and helps prevent blood clots.

Unless it is unadvisable due to the type of surgery you had, your nurse will encourage you to turn from side to side or on your back at least every two hours.  Your nurse will help you with positioning.

Rotating your ankles and moving your feet back and forth will help keep leg muscles strong and maintain good circulation in your legs.  Your physician also may order support stockings and compression boots for you to promote good circulation in your legs.  Compression boots are connected to a small machine that gives the leg a gentle massage by inflating and deflating the boots.

In most cases, depending on the kind of surgery you have had, you will sit up in a chair with assistance on the evening of the surgery or the following morning.  Please call your nurse for assistance the first several times you try to get in and out of bed.  Your activity will increase on a daily basis during your hospitalization.

Staying Comfortable

Your surgeon and/or anesthesiologist will order pain medication appropriate for your individual needs and your type of surgery.  You may be given pain pills, pain shots, epidural pain management or Patient-Controlled Analgesia.  It is important to take pain medications when you first feel discomfort to make sure you are comfortable after the surgery.

Using pain medication enables you to perform the necessary activities to expedite your recovery—like coughing, deep breathing, early movement and walking.  Please discuss any questions or concerns you have about pain management with your physician and your nurse.

Additional Questions

We hope this provides the information necessary to ease your mind about your surgery.  If you still have questions or concerns, please call your physician or the Ambulatory Surgery Unit at the hospital where you will be having your procedure. The hours of operation are as follows:

Evanston Hospital
6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday – Friday (Monday until 10 p.m.)

Glenbrook Hospital
6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday – Friday

Highland Park Hospital
6 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

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