Specific Points after Abdominal Surgery

Pain Control

You will probably have a mechanical system for pain relief after surgery – either a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump or an epidural in your back. This will make you feel comfortable and help you do your exercises and move about after surgery. If not, you will probably receive intravenous pain medications as needed. Once you are taking liquids orally, you will be given oral pain medications. These work just as well as PCA or epidural. The pills work best when used regularly, so ask for another dose before the pain gets too bad. Generally, you can take the pills every four hours, as needed. If this is not enough, additional medications can be prescribed.


Liquids may be started the night of surgery or the following day. You may drink as much as you like but it is better not to drink too much. Avoid carbonated beverages. When you are tolerating fluids, solid food will be started. It is important not to overeat. You may pick and choose what you like off your tray. You will probably find that you feel better eating small, frequent meals, even after you go home. If you feel bloated or nauseated, just stop drinking or eating for an hour or two before trying again. You may need medication to relieve nausea.

Bowel Activity

Surgery tends to paralyze the bowel for a variable period of time. This period is minimized by getting up and around early after surgery. Standing and walking promote return of bowel function while lying in bed does not. Minimizing your use of intravenous pain medications also tends to help your bowel recover.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are extremely important and should be done every hour during waking hours, taking at least 10 deep breaths per hour. This expands the small air sacs in the lungs and helps reduce the risk of postoperative fever and pneumonia.


Getting up and walking after surgery aids recovery in many ways. Much of the pain after major surgery is from muscle spasms. Getting out of bed, sitting and walking help you loosen up and may reduce your pain. Careful exercise also helps your breathing, improves blood flow to your lungs, quickens the recovery of your bowel function and does not damage your wound or the surgical area in any way.

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