What to expect after surgery

Day of surgery

Activity

  • You will be helped to a chair and sit for two hours.
  • You will walk the day of your surgery.
  • You may be asked to walk from your surgery bed to your hospital bed when you get to your room.

Diet

  • You will have a diet of clear liquids. This may include water, clear broth or bouillon, Gatorade®, Jell-O®, Popsicles®, coffee or tea (without milk or cream), fruit juices without pulp, such as apple or white grape.
  • If you are tolerating clear liquids, you may be given small amounts of solid food.
  • You will have a nutritional supplement to drink.

Medicines

  • Your doctors and nurses will work with you to help you manage your pain.
  • You will also receive acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help control your pain.
  • You will be given anti-nausea medicine to help prevent nausea.

Treatments

  • You will get IV fluids the first night after your surgery.
  • The nurse will check your temperature, breathing, pulse and blood pressure.
  • A pulse oximeter sensor will be placed on your finger. The sensor will record the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • You will wear leg compression devices to help with your circulation.
  • You will use an incentive spirometer one time every hour while you are awake. Take 10 breaths each time you use it.
  • Be sure to take deep breaths and cough every two hours.
  • You may receive integrative therapies (such as acupuncture or massage) if they are available at your hospital.

Day one after surgery

Activity

  • You will be up with help to walk at least four times or more during the day.
  • You may take a sponge bath with help.

Diet

  • You will have clear liquids and either a full liquid or regular diet as tolerated.
  • You will receive nutritional supplements to help you heal.

Medicines

  • You will receive pain medicine as needed.
  • You will also receive acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help control your pain.
  • You will be given anti-nausea medicine to help prevent nausea.

Treatments

  • Your IV fluids will be stopped if you drink enough liquids.
  • The urinary catheter may be removed. If it is, the nurse will measure your urine.
  • The nurse will check your temperature, breathing, pulse and blood pressure.
  • A pulse oximeter sensor will be placed on your finger. The sensor will record the amount of oxygen in your blood.
  • You will wear leg compression devices to help with your circulation.
  • You will use an incentive spirometer every two hours while you are awake. Take 10 breaths each time you use it.
  • Be sure to take deep breaths and cough every two hours.
  • You may receive integrative therapies (such as acupuncture or massage) if they are available at your hospital.

Day two after surgery

Activity

  • You will be up with help to walk at least six to eight times during the day.
  • You may take a shower. (If you have an epidural, this will need to be removed first.)

Diet

  • You will have a full liquid diet or regular diet, as you can tolerate.
  • You will receive nutritional supplements to help you heal.

Medicines

  • If you had an epidural, it may be stopped. Tell your nurse if you need more pain medicine. 
  • You will also receive acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help control your pain.

Treatments

  • Your dressing may be changed or removed.
  • The nurse will check your temperature, breathing, pulse and blood pressure.
  • You may receive integrative therapies (such as acupuncture or massage) if they are available at your hospital.

Day three after surgery

Activity

  • You will be up with help to walk at least six to eight times during the day.
  • You may take a shower. (If you have an epidural, this will need to be removed first.)

Diet

  • You can have a regular diet, if tolerated.
  • You will receive nutritional supplements to help you heal.

Medicines

  • You will be given pain medicine to take by mouth to help control your pain.

Treatments

  • Your dressing may be changed or removed.
  • The nurse will check your temperature, breathing, pulse and blood pressure.
  • You may receive integrative therapies (such as acupuncture or massage) if they are available at your hospital.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Understanding Your Colon or Rectal Surgery, can-ah-95399
First Published: 01/24/2013
Last Reviewed: 08/15/2017

Tip
Taking sips of warm peppermint or ginger tea may help with any nausea after your surgery.