Patient Surgical Guide Section 5

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Patient Surgical Guide Section 5


After Surgery

Recovery Room

Your family will be notified once you are transferred to the recovery room from the operating room and again when you are to be transferred to your room. Visitors may be permitted in the recovery room at the discretion of the recovery room staff. You will remain in the recovery room for about an hour while you are waking up from anesthesia.

The nurses monitor your neurological status and vital signs. You will be asked to state your name and to answer other questions to assess your mental status. You will be connected to a cardiac monitor, pulse oximetry machine (measures the oxygen in your blood), temperature gauge, and oxygen mask. Pain medication is available to you as ordered by your surgeon. Our team is strongly committed to pain management. Please notify your nurse if your pain is not adequately addressed. Because many patients feel nauseated after a surgical procedure, medications are given in the recovery room to help prevent this unpleasant side effect.

You may have a variety of intravenous and arterial lines, which may remain in place for a few days or until hospital discharge. Flexible catheters may be used to drain surgical sites, the bladder, and brain fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (this tubing may be located in your lower back or top of your head). These drains may remain in place for as long as 4 days and are removed at the discretion of your surgical team.

Sequential compression stockings are placed on your legs to assist blood flow to your heart during surgery and while you are immobile. Surgical dressings depend on the procedure and surgeon. Many cranial (head) surgeries do not warrant a dressing. Rather the site is kept clean and may be treated with antibiotic ointment.

Medication may be ordered to control your pain and to assist in your recovery process. Please ask for this medication when you feel uncomfortable, especially during the first few days after surgery. If you wait until the pain is extraordinarily strong, the medication ordered by your doctor may not be able to control your pain. If you are concerned about becoming dependent on narcotics, please discuss this fear with your surgeon before surgery. Non-narcotic medication is available and is often sufficient to control pain.

Intensive Care Units (ICU)

The hospital has many different ICU(s). You will be assigned to a specific ICU when you enter the recovery room. ICU(s) are available to patients who require close monitoring such as those recovering from a surgical procedure or who are critically ill. In this department there is usually one nurse for every two patients. Visiting hours vary among the different ICUs. Flowers and live plants are not permitted in these areas. Please check with your unit for specific policies.

In the ICU you will be encouraged to increase your activity level as tolerated to help avoid complications associated with temporary immobility such as gas pains, bed sores, decreased lung capacity, and blood clots. You will be asked to reposition your body, to take deep breathes, and to use an incentive spirometer to flush anesthetic agents from your lungs. Showers are permitted after your surgeon provides a written order. Your nurse assesses your neurological status at predetermined times to ensure that you recover as expected. Your assessment includes being asked various questions to test your alertness. You also may be asked to move specific parts of your body.

Food and liquids are introduced slowly, beginning with ice chips and advancing to more substantial foods as tolerated. Tests such as radiographic studies (MRI, CT) and laboratory tests may be performed in the days after your surgery. At this point, you may need treatment to assist with your recovery such as speech, occupational, and physician therapy. These services may continue throughout your hospital stay and after hospital discharge in an outpatient setting. Social work, case management, and pastoral services are available on request.

General Nursing Units

Once close monitoring is no longer required, you will be transferred to the general nursing floor. Private and double rooms are available in these areas. On general nursing floors, your activity will be increased to avoid muscle weakness and other complications of immobility. Some patients are out of bed the same day as surgery. Services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and rehabilitation may be provided. As your level of activity increases, your discomfort may also increase. At this point pain, medication is usually taken orally rather than through an intravenous line. Diet is advanced as tolerated. Small, frequent, balanced meals will help you heal faster and regain your normal energy level.



You will probably be discharged from the hospital by 11:00 a.m. If possible, you should arrange transportation before discharge. Prescriptions for pain control and other medications are provided at discharge. You may not feel that it is necessary to have these prescriptions filled right away, but it is important that your medications be available if the need arises. Discuss the possible interactions between various medications that you are taking with your physicians. Avoid drinking alcohol, driving, and operating heavy machinery while taking medication for pain.

Honor your physical limitations. Allow sufficient time to recover before you resume normal daily activities. Ask your surgeon for specific limitations on lifting weight based on the procedure that you had. Exercise gradually with activities such as walking rather than aggressive gym activities. Discuss this process with your surgeon.

Baths and swimming are discouraged until your sutures are removed, typically 7 to 14 days after surgery. Wound care is prescribed by your surgeon.

Small frequent meals, including foods rich in protein, are encouraged to promote healing. Smoking inhibits the healing process by hindering blood flow to your organs and tissues and should be avoided.

The hospital's case management department and social workers are available to help you identify needs that you may have after discharge from the hospital. These needs may range from renting wheelchairs to arranging home health care and outpatient therapies. Please ask to speak to one of these individuals before the day of discharge.

Remember to take all of your belongings with you and to tell your friends and family that you have been discharged from the hospital.

Follow up with your surgeon

Call your surgeon's office at discharge to schedule a follow-up appointment 7 to 10 days after surgery. This visit is an opportunity for your surgeon to examine your surgical site and to assess your recovery. Before the appointment write down any questions you may have to ensure that all of your concerns are addressed. Special accommodations can be made for patients traveling from out of state. Write down any instructions that your physician gives you such as the need for an annual check-up, future x-rays, or other time-sensitive tests.

Hospital Phone List

  • Barrow ResourceLink: (800) 227-7691
  • Concierge Services: (602) 406-4949
  • Registration: (602) 307-2305
  • Main hospital: (602) 406-3000
  • Preoperative Center: (602) 406-3192
  • Hospital Security: (602) 406-3363

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Barrow Neurological Institute
350 W. Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 406-3000