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Common Post-operative Care for Gastrointestinal Surgery

Any gastrointestinal surgery is critical as damage to the organs associated with the gastrointestinal system can prove fatal. The diseases related to the gastrointestinal system can be treated with medication, but sometimes surgeries must be performed. After the doctor performs the surgical procedure to remove the cause of the disease, the doctor will put you under post-operative care, which is necessary for the body to recover after surgery. Here, we share some common post-operative care doctors recommend after a gastrointestinal surgical procedure.


Why are Gastrointestinal Surgeries Performed?

The gastrointestinal system (GI system) is one of the integral parts of our body as it helps in the digestion of food. Suppose a problem arises with any organ associated with the GI system or your body suffers from any GI disorders. In that case, doctors need to perform a surgical gastroenterology procedure. GI disorders that can only be treated with surgeries include-

  • Appendicitis
  • Colon cancer
  • Esophageal and stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Diverticular disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernias
  • Hernia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 

Surgeries can be of two types. One is open surgery, and the other one is a minimally invasive procedure. A doctor performs any of these two depending on the patient's health condition. 


A minimally invasive procedure, also known as a laparoscopic procedure, causes less pain and little blood loss. The scars you will receive from the surgical procedure will also be small. As the incision size will be minor, the chance of infection will also be less. You will also recover quickly after a laparoscopic gastrointestinal surgical procedure.


Some of the minimally invasive GI surgeries include –

  • Bariatric surgery
  • Splenectomy
  • Colon and rectal surgery 
  • Cholecystectomy
  • Appendectomy
  • Fundoplication


On the contrary, open GI surgeries will cause more pain and more blood loss. The scars will also be more prominent compared to minimally invasive surgical procedures. The chance of infection is also higher in this case. Open GI procedures include –

  • Whipple procedure 
  • Gastrectomy


Why is Post-Operative Care Necessary for Patients?

You will require post-operative care after a surgical gastroenterology procedure. The duration and type of post-operative care depend on your surgery and previous health records. The main aim of post-operative care is to manage the pain in the body and let the wound heal faster. Post-operative care will start right after the doctor finishes performing the surgery and will continue for a few days after the discharge. When you are at the hospital, doctors and nurses will handle your post-operative care. Still, at home, you should always follow the doctor's instructions to get healed soon after the surgery.


Post-Operative Care for Gastrointestinal Surgery

After the gastrointestinal surgery, you will require post-operative care when doctors discharge you from the hospital. It is necessary to regain the full functionality of the body's gastrointestinal system. The post-operative care period depends on your problem's severity and the operation's critical nature. 

  • Bowel Movement: As certain portions of the GI system will be removed from the body, the body will take a while to get used to it. Because of this, bowel movements and peristalsis will become irregular. Things will revert to normal within one or two weeks. During that period, the patient's diet needs to be controlled, which is required to ensure that the patient is taking all the prescribed medicine.

  • Controlled Diet: Your doctor will recommend a well-balanced diet and also tell you about the food items you need to avoid for a specific period at the time of discharge. You should strictly follow that diet. Slowly you can get back to your regular diet and add fibre to your diet after consulting with your physician. 

  • Taking Medications Regularly: Patients usually experience abdominal pain after the surgery. Besides that, doctors also prescribe medicines for wounds to heal faster. You will receive a prescription during discharge. All the medications will be mentioned there, along with instructions on how and when to take them. Strictly follow that to eliminate the pain and let the wound heal faster. 

  • Special Care at the Incision Area: As soon as you start performing physical activities, you will experience discomfort. Especially in the area where the cut was made at the time of the surgery. You should contact your doctor if you feel any drainage from the wound or excessive pain in that area. 

  • Take things Slow at the Beginning: You need to take things slow in the beginning as you can't get back to your regular daily routine right after the surgical procedure. Physicians usually recommend not performing heavy activities like picking up heavy objects or anything that requires you to bend your body. Besides these activities, you can start walking and climbing stairs right after getting discharged. You should return to your work only after your physician recommends it and not before that. Besides, you should not also perform physical or sexual activities as it will strain the abdominal region. You can ask your physician about when you can start doing them again when you will visit the hospital for a follow-up. 

  • Follow-up: The doctor will give you a date when you need to visit the hospital for a follow-up. You can ask your doctor questions regarding your medication, health, and recovery at the follow-up time. 


What are the Areas of Concern After Gastrointestinal Surgery?

If you have to go through a surgical gastroenterology procedure, you should know the areas of concern. You can contact the hospital if any of the following occurs in your body.

  1. Increase in pain in the area of the incision
  2. Excessive blood or pus coming out of the site of the incision
  3. Swelling or redness around the incision
  4. Unbearable pain in the abdominal region
  5. Fever or Chills
  6. Nausea and vomiting
  7. Constipation because of less to no bowel movement for more than three days
  8. Passing out watery stools for more than 24 hours shows diarrhea
  9. Bleeding from the rectum


Final Words

Post-operative care after gastrointestinal surgery will indeed reduce the risk of post-surgical complications and ensure your speedy recovery. Before leaving the hospital, talk to your doctor and ask him all the critical questions regarding your post-operative care. In case of an emergency like bleeding from a wound or any discomfort in the body, get in touch with the hospital or doctor directly. You can smoothly make a recovery on time with well-planned post-operative care. Never ignore that for the betterment of your health.

Medanta Medical Team
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