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10 Tips for Recovering From Abdominal Surgery

Recovering From Surgery Takes Time And Patience


Updated July 08, 2014

Abdominal surgery is not an uncommon occurrence for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Recovery from IBD surgery takes time and patience. You may feel stir-crazy while your body heals, but it's important that you follow doctor's orders and give yourself the time you need to get back to the activity level you had before your surgery.

  1. Get everything straight with your insurance company. Some insurance companies require that they be informed before you are hospitalized. This is extremely important, as they may deny benefits if you don't call them prior to the surgery.
  2. Get everything straight with your employer. Give notice as soon as your surgery date is scheduled. You may be eligible for short-term disability if you will need an extended recovery period. Remember that you will need a note from your doctor explaining that you will be having surgery (no one needs to know why -- it's none of their business) and how long you are likely to be absent. Additionally, when you return to work, you will need a release from your doctor, stating that you are well enough for work. Don't forget to ask for these, and remember to keep a copy for yourself.
  3. Make sure everything is ready for your return before you prepare for surgery. Here is a short list of items to be taken care of:
    • A freezer, refrigerator, and pantry stocked will soft, low-residue foods.
    • All laundry and heavy cleaning finished, and house in good order.
    • Furniture and other items placed to minimize trips up and down stairs.
    • Bills paid up to date.
  4. Have plenty of quiet activities to keep you occupied when you get home. You will be tired, sore, and have a short attention span due to painkillers. Plan to spend time in the house reading, knitting, watching movies or TV, doing crossword puzzles or word games, putting together puzzles, or any other soothing hobby. If you get bored easily at home this step is very important. Your mental health during recovery is very important, and being bored or feeling "cooped-up" won't help.
  5. Get out of bed soon after surgery. Yes, it's likely to hurt, but don't fight the nurses when they want to get you out of bed in the days following your surgery. You will recover faster, and get released sooner if you get up and start moving around. Additionally, this will get your bowels moving again so you can get off the liquid diet and get some real food.
  6. No lifting, heavy housecleaning, or vacuuming. Your muscles need time to heal. Do not lift things heavier than recommended by your doctor (typically this is about 5 lbs), including, but not limited to children, cats, dogs, grocery bags, and laundry baskets. Your continued health and complete recovery is too important to risk by lifting. Vacuuming is difficult on the abdominal muscles, don't do it until the surgeon says your ready.
  7. Get some light exercise as soon as you are able. Your recovery will go in stages. At first, walking will be tough enough. Don't wear yourself out, but walk as much as you are able. When the surgeon releases you to do more, start into an exercise program slowly.
  8. No sex until the doctor releases you. Don't be afraid to discuss with your surgeon about when you will be well enough to have sex -- it's a very important question. This is a personal decision that also needs to be discussed with your partner, and will depend on your comfort level. You will know when you are ready.
  9. Keep extra pillows on hand. A pillow between the knees, and another held against the stomach helps with discomfort during sleeping. Additionally, put one on any chair you are sitting in for extra comfort.
  10. Get someone to help you. Having someone around to prepare your meals and keep up with household chores will be helpful for your physical recovery, and give you peace of mind. If you don't have a friend or relative available, check with the hospital about volunteers. They may have a staff of volunteers (or be able to direct you to a volunteer group) who can deliver your medications and groceries, or just come by for a short visit.
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