After your operation

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After your operation

Please read the useful information and guidance provided below about after your operation.

Recovery from anaesthesia

After the operation, you will be taken back to a recovery room. Recovery staff will be with you at all times and will continue to monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels.

Oxygen will be given through a lightweight clear plastic mask, which covers your mouth and nose. Depending on the operation you have had, you may have a urinary catheter. This is a soft tube put temporarily into the bladder to drain it.

If you are going home on the same day, once you have had something to drink/eat and are considered ‘ready for discharge’, you may be taken to a seated recovery area to await collection or transport.

Whilst we make every effort to reunite you with your relative/companion following your procedure the nurses will assess this on an individual basis. Your relatives/companions are welcome to enquire at the reception desk about your progress.

Pain relief after your operation

  • Good pain relief is important and some people need more pain relief than others.
  • If you can breathe deeply and cough easily and you can move around freely after your operation, you are less likely to develop a chest infection or blood clots.
  • Occasionally, pain is a warning sign that all is not well, so you should ask for help when you feel pain.

Here are some ways of giving pain relief:

  • Pills, tablets or liquids to swallow. You will need to be able to eat, drink and not feel sick for these drugs to work. They take at least half an hour to work.
  • Injections. These may be given through a needle in your vein or muscle and take up to 30 minutes to work.
  • Suppositories. These waxy pellets are put into your back passage (rectum). They are useful if you cannot swallow or if you might vomit.
  • Patient controlled analgesia (PCA). This is a method using a machine that allows you to control your pain relief yourself.
  • Local anaesthetics and regional blocks.

How you feel afterwards will depend on the procedure and anaesthesia you’ve had. Please speak to us if you feel uncomfortable.

Possible side effects and complications

Very common and common (1 in 10 – 1 in 100):

  • Feeling sick and vomiting after surgery
  • Sore throat
  • Dizziness and feeling faint
  • Shivering
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Aches, pains and backache
  • Pain
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Bruising and soreness
  • Chest infection

The risks to you as an individual will depend on:

  • Your age and whether you have any other illness.
  • Factors such as smoking or being overweight.
  • Surgery which is complicated, long or done in an emergency.

Uncommon side effects and complications (1 in 1000):

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Damage to teeth, lips or tongue
  • An existing medical condition getting worse

Rare or very rare complications (1 in 10,000 – 1 in 100,000):

  • Damage to the eyes. Your eyelids may be held closed with tape to protect them - please try not to rub your eyes after your operation.
  • Serious allergy to drugs - Anaphylaxis.
  • Nerve damage. Most nerve damage is temporary (lasts less than three months) but in some cases damage is permanent.
  • Equipment failure causing significant harm. Anaesthetic equipment can fail but the continued presence of a vigilant anaesthetist combined with equipment checks, appropriate monitoring and alarms, keeps patients safe when equipment fails.
  • Death or brain damage. Deaths cause by anaesthesia are very rare. There are approximately ten deaths for every million anaesthetics given in the UK.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) - a blood clot that forms in a vein


Sometimes a DVT occurs for no apparent reason. Some people inherit or develop an increased risk of DVT. Being unwell and having reduced mobility (for example, when recovering from an operation) can lead to changes in the blood and sluggish blood flow through the leg veins. These events make blood more likely to clot and form a DVT.

The highest risk is associated with major joint operations such as those for joint (hip or knee) replacement or hip fracture, major trauma or major spinal surgery, especially if someone has multiple risk factors for DVT.

Possible symptoms

  • Skin warmth
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pain
  • Death

How to reduce the risk 

On admission to hospital or at your pre-operative assessment, you will have an assessment of your risk of DVT and any reason not to use preventative treatments. The assessment will decide the recommended preventative measures (known as thromboprophylaxis) to be used in hospital and what is recommended after leaving hospital.

These may include:

  • Avoiding dehydration.
  • Mobilising early and frequently.
  • Use of elastic support (anti-embolic) stockings.
  • Injections of heparin (an anticoagulant or ‘blood thinner’).
  • Intermittent compression boots (to gently squeeze the legs) may be recommended.
  • Occasionally the use of tablet anticoagulation medication (e.g. warfarin, dabigatran or rivaroxaban).
  • Vena Cava Filter (an umbrella shaped device inserted into a large vein to stop blood clots moving towards the lungs).

What happens if DVT does develop?

An assessment is made by the medical team and a scan can be done. If the test results are positive anticoagulation treatment with heparin and warfarin is given to prevent further clot formation and allow the DVT to breakdown.

If you are having an operation and you are taking a drug that thins your blood (e.g. aspirin, warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, clopidogrel) your healthcare team should assess the risks and benefits of stopping this drug temporarily in the week before your operation with or without different treatment in its place.