What to Expect After Open Abdominal Surgery

It’s important to be prepared and informed about what you may experience after you undergo open abdominal surgery. Read about what you can expect in the days following your surgery.

Day 0 – Afternoon and Evening of Your Surgery Day

• You’ll begin your breathing and leg exercises, under the guidance of your occupational therapist.
• In most cases, you will be offered a clear liquid diet within hours of surgery. In rare cases—and typically when you have an existing bowel obstruction—you may wake up with a tube running from your nose into your stomach to empty your stomach contents.
• You’ll sit up in a chair and walk a short distance.

Day 1 – The First Day After Your Surgery

• If you have a stomach tube in your nose, that will probably be removed today.
• You’ll be given liquids to drink, but be sure to only drink as much as you can comfortably tolerate.
• Avoid drinking carbonated drinks.
• If you feel nauseous, don’t eat or drink for about an hour and the nausea may subside. If it does not, request medication for nausea.
• Continue doing your breathing exercises each hour.
• At least five times per day, make sure to get out of bed and walk as much as you can. Moving around provides many benefits, including reducing your pain, reducing muscle spasms, improving blood flow in your legs and helping your breathing.

Day 2 – The Second Day After Your Surgery

• If you have a tube in your bladder, that will probably be removed today.
• You’ll be drinking thicker liquids and perhaps some solid food later in the day.
• Avoid drinking carbonated drinks.
• If you feel nauseous, don’t eat or drink for about an hour and the nausea may subside. If it does not, request medication for nausea.
• You’ll begin to take oral pain medication, swallowing pills rather than through an IV.
• Be sure to ask for another dose of medication as soon as your pain begins to return; try not to wait until you’re in severe pain.
• Continue to walk as much as possible and complete your exercises.

Day 3 – The Third Day After Your Surgery

• If you’re able to drink liquids, your intravenous fluids will be stopped today.
• You will be eating solid food.
• You’ll continue to take oral pain medication.
• Continue to walk as much as possible and complete your exercises.
• Depending on how your recovery is progressing, you may be able to return home today.

Day 4 – The Fourth Day After Your Surgery

If you’re able to do everything from Day 3, you will likely be returning home today. If not, don’t worry. Everyone is different, and it’s important that you remain in the hospital as long as is necessary to help you on your road to a healthy recovery.