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After Bowel Surgery: Recovering in the Hospital and at Home

You may be in the hospital for 2 to 7 days. Once out of the hospital, recovery may take up to several months, depending on the type of surgery you had.

Patient in hospital gown walking with IV pole in hospital assisted by healthcare provider.

Right after surgery

After surgery, you’ll be taken to the recovery room (also called the postanesthesia care unit, or PACU). Here, your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be checked. You’ll also be given pain medication as needed. When you’re ready, you’ll be moved to a regular hospital room.

Your recovery in the hospital

Soon after surgery you’ll be urged to get up and take short walks.   This helps you heal faster. Gentle movement can improve digestive function. Walking also helps your heart and lungs and can keep clots from forming in your legs. During the first few days, you’ll get nutrition through an IV tube. You may have a nasogastric tube (a tube that passes through the nose to the stomach) at first to keep your stomach empty. It can help your digestive tract heal. You also may meet with an ostomy nurse if you have a colostomy or ileostomy. He or she will teach you how to care for yourself as you heal.

Getting back to normal at home

Depending on your surgery, even mild activity can make you tired in the first few weeks or months. After a few months, you may be feeling back to normal.

  • Stay active. But avoid hard exercise and heavy lifting in the first several months.

  • You can walk, climb stairs, shower, and bathe soon after surgery. But don’t drive until your doctor says you can.

  • Follow all special diet instructions you are given.

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor right away if you notice:

  • Fever

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Increased abdominal pain

  • Constipation, diarrhea, or bloating

  • Increased redness, swelling, drainage, or pain near the incision

  • Difficulty controlling bowel movements 


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