What You Need to Know After Abdominal Surgery

Your colon and rectal care team at UC Health is committed to your journey to a healthy recovery following your surgery. Read what you can expect in the weeks and months after your surgery.

Post-Op Follow-Up

When you’ll need to follow-up with your surgeon after surgery depends on the specifics of your surgery and how long you spent in the hospital. Typically, your first follow-up visit will be with our nurse practicioner two weeks after surgery. If you have staples in your wound, the nurse practitioner will be remove them at that visit. If your wound is closed without staples, then you won’t need any sutures removed. After this initial appointment, you will then follow-up with your surgeon two to four weeks later.

Pain Control

Following surgery, you’ll probably have a mechanical system for pain management, which can be either a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump or an epidural in your back. With these, you’ll feel comfortable and be able to move around and do your necessary exercises after surgery. If you don’t have a mechanical system for pain control, you’ll likely receive pain medication intravenously.

Once you’re able to drink some, you will take your pain medication orally, which works just as well as mechanical systems. Usually, you can take a pain pill every four hours, so be sure to ask for another dose if you feel the pain starting to return.


You’ll follow these dietary guidelines:
• Focusing on fluid intake will be your primary goal following surgery.
• Drinking small amounts of non-carbonated beverages several times throughout the day is best.
• Like fluids, it’s best that you eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
• If you become nauseated or feel bloated, don’t eat or drink anything for one to two hours and see if you feel better. If not, contact your surgeon’s office to see if they recommend a nausea medication.
• We often encourage a soft, low-residue diet, which contains foods that are low in fiber and easy for your body to digest. You’ll receive more information about this while you’re in the hospital.


You should expect your bowel function to not be completely normal for some time after surgery. Some ways that can help your bowel function to return to normal include:
• Get up and move around soon after surgery.
• Stand, walk and complete your exercises to the best of your ability.
• Use pain medication as needed, but keep in mind that narcotic pain medication—whether given intravenously or orally—will slow down your bowels and, in some cases, contribute to post-operative nausea and vomiting.

Breathing Exercises

It’s very important that you complete your breathing exercises.to help reduce your chance of developing post-operative fever or pneumonia. Every hour when you’re awake, take at least ten slow, deep breaths.


Getting up and walking around as much as possible after surgery can reduce muscle spasms — a primary cause of pain. Exercise can partially alleviate muscle spasm pain. Controlled exercise does not damage your wound or surgical area, and has a variety of benefits:
• Helps your breathing
• Improves blood flow to your lungs
• Aids in recovery of your bowel function

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