What to Expect


Activity is important after surgery. At first we will assist you to the side of the bed or the chair. Depending on how you tolerate this activity, we will encourage you to stand with assistance and eventually walk with assistance in the halls. Slow activity is good for your healing process after surgery.

Bowel Function

Due to the anesthesia given during your surgery and the pain medications used during and/or after surgery, your normal bowel function is depressed. It takes several hours for anesthesia to wear off, and some people notice nausea and/or dry mouth.

Let your nurses know if you have nausea, and medication can be given to help this.

Your stomach is still “waking up” from anesthesia. It will wake up in stages over time and everyone is different. At first just take small sips of water or ice chips. This will help hydrate you and usually will not cause nausea. As your stomach wakes up, you may notice belching. This is normal.

Your medical team will also be asking you if you are passing gas, and will listen to your abdomen. This helps determine if your lower intestines are “waking up”.

The last part of the process is having a bowel movement. This process is different for everyone, and can take several days.


You may have a urinary catheter after surgery. Some patients only require this for a day or two after surgery. It will be removed and we will make sure you can urinate on your own without any problems prior to your discharge from the hospital. After many urinary system or kidney surgeries, it is not uncommon for there to be some blood in your urine for a couple of days. This should clear up if you drink plenty of fluids and as you heal.

Some patients need to go home with a foley catheter. If you have had your prostate removed, you will have to keep the catheter in for 7-10 days to allow for healing. The nursing staff will teach you and your family how to manage this at home. Learn more about foley catheter care.


Constipation is fairly common after surgery. You may get a stool softener daily while in the hospital.  If you do get this after surgery, you will receive a prescription to continue this when discharged. Drinking enough fluids, slow walking, fruits and juices in your diet, and when needed Milk of Magnesia from the pharmacy will help with this. If you have had prostate surgery, DO NOT insert anything into your rectum like a suppository or enema, this can harm you.

Narcotic pain medication can contribute to constipation, so if you do not have severe pain, we recommend taking Tylenol or anti-inflammatories as recommended by your surgeon to help your discomfort. Examples of anti-inflammatories: Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Aleve

Coughing and Deep Breathing

We will ask you to do deep breathing and coughing exercises and to use an incentive spirometer device. This helps to get air into the bottom of your lungs and to clear mucus. After your third deep breath, we want you to splint your abdomen with your hand or a pillow, and cough to bring any mucus up that you can. This helps to prevent pneumonia. The nursing staff will show you how to do this and how to use the incentive spirometer.


After you tolerate clear liquids, your diet will be advanced as you tolerate. Take it easy with your choices, eat small amounts more frequently. Easily digestible foods are a good choice until you are recovered. If you are diabetic or have food restrictions, dietary staff can help you make your choices when you call your order in.

Examples of easily digestible food: eggs, toast, oatmeal or cream of wheat, turkey or chicken sandwiches, broth-based soups, soft vegetables, potatoes or rice, fruits, jello.


Drink plenty of fluids as you recover as long as you do not have any fluid restrictions. Water is recommended.

Pain Control

You may have pain. Communicate to your nurse where your pain is and at what intensity. We use a scale from 1-10, 10 is the worst pain and 1 is the least amount of pain.

When you are having pain, ask for pain medication. Most patients do not require narcotic pain medication and can manage their pain with Tylenol, anti-inflammatory pills or non-narcotic medications. Always check with your surgeon while in the hospital for preferred, non-narcotic, over-the-counter pain medication recommendations.