Post-Operative Care

Post-Operative Care

Immediately after your surgery, you may be taken to the recovery room, also called the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit or PACU. You will be there for approximately one to two hours.

If you do not go to the PACU, you will be taken to your pre-/post-operative room where you will stay until you are discharged.

Pain Relief

You have the right to:

  • Facts and answers to your questions about pain and pain relief.
  • A sense your report of pain is believed by your doctor or nurse.
  • A feeling the staff cares about your pain.
  • A quick response from your nurse or doctor when you report pain.
  • The best pain relief treatments on hand.

Ways you can help:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse what to expect.
  • Talk about pain relief choices with your doctor or nurse.
  • Work with your doctor or nurse to make a pain relief plan.
  • Ask for pain relief as soon as the pain begins.
  • Help doctors and nurses measure your pain.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse about any pain that will not go away.

Talking About Pain Relief

  • Tell your doctor or nurse that you are in pain.
  • Keep a diary with notes about when and where your pain happens.

Here are some questions that you might try to answer when you talk to your doctor or nurse about pain:

  • Where is the pain located? Chest, shoulder, neck, back, arm, leg, foot, hand, head, or other.
  • How would you describe the pain? Sharp, dull, aching, throbbing, pins and needles, or other.
  • Does the pain come and go, or is it there all the time?
  • What makes the pain better? Is it better when I lay down, stand up, walk, sit in a chair, sleep, eat, read, move in a certain way?
  • What makes the pain worse? Is it worse when I lay down, stand up, walk, sit in a chair, read, sleep, eat, get dressed, move in a certain way?
  • Does the pain stop you when you lie down, stand up, walk, sit in a chair, read, sleep, eat, bathe, get dressed, move in a certain way?

How to measure pain:

One way to measure pain is to use a “pain scale.” One type of pain scale asks you to pick a number from 0 to 10 to measure how strong the pain is. Another scale uses faces, from happy to sad, that match how the pain feels. Nurses and doctors may also ask you to describe your pain. No matter which scale you use, give the best answer, so the treatment can help.

Below are two pain scales:

Measures to Relieve Pain

  • Medicines
  • A change in your position
  • Balms
  • Massages, back rubs
  • Heat or cold packs
  • A soothing bath
  • Music to help you relax
  • Meditation
  • Something to distract you, such as a game, puzzles, TV program, reading

Talk with your nurse or doctor about other ways to relieve pain.

To the Parents of Pediatric Patients

Rights to pain relief:

Your child has the same right to pain relief as grownups. As a parent, you can play a big part in helping your child.

How to talk about pain:

Tell the nurse if you think your child is in pain. A hint may be if your child acts differently than usual. Also, tell the nurse about any words your child might say or other ways they might express pain. This will be helpful to your child’s nurse and doctor.

Your child’s nurse will watch for changes that might be a clue that they are in pain.

If your child is old enough, the nurse may ask him/her to look at a group of faces that measure pain.

Pain relief:

  • Medicines: Infants and children are given almost the same medicines for pain as adults, just in different dosages.
  • Being held or rocked
  • A favorite blanket
  • Teddy bears or other soft toys to cuddle
  • Pacifiers
  • Mobiles
  • Music, lullabies
  • Toys, TV, games, or other things that might distract your child
  • Sucrose liquid


The instructions you are given by your surgeon and care team have been carefully calculated to aid in your recovery. You can assist in the speed of recovery by doing certain breathing and moving exercises in the recovery room.

You will be asked to breathe deeply and cough to help clear your lungs, aid circulation, and help prevent pneumonia.

It is important that your circulation and body functions return to normal after your surgery. You can help these processes by moving around, sitting up in a chair, and even walking, as indicated by your surgeon and healthcare team.

Incision and Dressing Care

Your incision area will be cleaned and properly dressed after surgery. Before you leave the hospital, a healthcare team member will show you how to provide care for the area. Be sure you understand the instruction sheet you are given.