According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hysterectomies are one of the more common forms of surgery for women. In fact, 1 and 3 women will have a hysterectomy before they reach the age of 60. Hysterectomies are performed for any number of reasons (endometriosis, uterine prolapse, uterine cancer, persistent vaginal bleeding, and chronic pelvic pain), but the more common reason is due to uterine fibroids. There are different forms of hysterectomies, as well as surgical procedures, but this article deals specifically with what to expect after an abdominal surgical procedure. This type of procedure involves the removal of the uterus through the abdomen.
The first thing to expect after surgery is pain. Once you are taken to your hospital room, you’ll be attached to a PCA pump that will allow you to control the amount of medications you’ll receive. A PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) is a device that is attached to an IV in which morphine or other narcotics are delivered. You will be given a button that, when pressed, will deliver a dose of pain relief. What’s great about the PCA is that it allows patients to control how much medication they’ll need based on their own judgment. The PCA is also computer-monitored so the dosages are calibrated to prevent over dosage. The PCA will be discontinued after a day. Doctors will then prescribe a number of narcotics, from morphine to Vicodin, as pain relief that nurses will inject into your IV.
You will also be hooked up to a catheter directly after surgery. The catheter is fairly painless and is removed the morning after surgery. A nurse will then help you out of the hospital bed and to the restroom. There will be pain in getting in and out of bed. A nurse will provide you with a pillow which, when pressed to the abdomen, will alleviate some of the pain.
To make sure the lungs are working properly, the nurse will give you a device that you will blow air into through a tube that will make a ball rise. By blowing through this tube and making the ball rise, you’ll be able to strengthen your lungs. After any type of invasive surgery, there is always the danger of suffering from a collapsed lung so it’s important to perform these exercises at least twice a day. Other breathing exercises or devices might be used. Use the pillow to help with the exercises as well.
A greater part of your stay in the hospital will go toward recovering enough from the surgery before you’re allowed to go home. This means making sure your body has recovered from the trauma of surgery. With any abdominal surgery, there is always a possibility that your organs may become paralyzed. This simply means that when the surgeons removed the uterus (and this really depends on the size of uterus especially in the case of oversized fibroids), they may have had to handle or manipulate the surrounding organs. The organs will react by simply stop functioning. The intestines as well as the colon will stop passing gas, allowing it to collect there and cause terrible gas pains and nausea.
To prevent gas pains and bloating, it’s important to get up and walk. Walking allows the organs to become active again. You’ll also be given stool softeners to aid in bowel movements. If you still have trouble with bowel movements or passing gas, the doctors might consider giving you a suppository or an enema.
Being Proactive in Your Recovery
Patients must be proactive in maintaining their health and recovery. That means insisting on getting out of bed and walking along the corridors several times a day. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that nurses will do this for you. It is up to you to make sure your recovery runs smoothly. Being proactive also includes letting nurses know exactly what types of pains you’re having and whether the medications your doctor is prescribing is working. Always let your nurses and doctors know exactly what is happening to your body and do not expect that they will always have the answers. Sometimes it might take a while to find the right medications that will work.
Results of Surgery
While there are various forms of surgical procedures for a hysterectomy, depending on the type of hysterectomy and reason, an abdominal procedure will by necessity be invasive. This means there will be a surgical scar. The incision will be reinforced with staples. It’s important to keep an eye on the incision to make sure there isn’t any swelling or discharge. This means the incision has become infected. While in the hospital, nurses will check your incision every time they take your vitals, but be sure to keep an eye on the incision as well and let your nurses know if something is not right.
After the surgery, you might also experience some spotted bleeding from the vagina. This is normal and should stop after a few days.
Generally speaking, you can expect a two to four day stay in the hospital.