Post surgery ailments

by Ellen T Johnson

A variety of ailments might be encountered after endometriosis surgery. Most are expected, short-lived, and easily managed. The following tips are for general information only and not meant as medical advice.

If you experience any bothersome symptom that persists, gets worse, or seems unusual, contact your doctor right away. Also contact your doctor if you experience any unusual bleeding, fever, swelling, or drainage from the incision(s).

Constipation

Constipation often occurs when surgery is performed on or around the bowel. Your doctor may prescribe a prescription remedy, such as a stool softener. Home measures include eating more fibre, drinking eight glasses of water a day, and taking short walks each day. For more information about bowel problems after surgery, click here.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea may also result from surgery around or on the bowel. Consult your doctor if diarrhoea persists, is severe, or is accompanied by fever. Your doctor may prescribe anti-diarrhoea or anti-nausea prescription medications. Home measures include ginger or chamomile tea and avoidance of dairy products, carbonated beverages, and caffeine. Try a bland liquid diet and keep yourself well hydrated.

Shoulder pain

The gas used during surgery often gets trapped under the diaphragm, causing pains that radiate up to the shoulder. This will go away in time, but it causes varying degrees of discomfort until it does. Try using two heating pads – one on the front and one on the back of the affected shoulder. If you are not taking medication for pain, ask your doctor which analgesic would work best to alleviate shoulder pain. To help dissipate the gas, consider peppermint tea, ginger ale, or carrot juice.

Bladder irritation

Insertion of a catheter can cause urethritis (irritation of the duct which urine passes through). Home measures for relief include drinking plenty of fluids, avoidance of soaps around the genital area, and the use of unscented “baby wipes” instead of toilet paper. If the urethral irritation persists beyond a few days, or you develop painful urination or see blood in your urine, contact your doctor right away. These symptoms may signal a bladder infection (cystitis), which should never be ignored. For information about recurrent bladder infections, click here.

Phlebitis or irritated veins

Phlebitis is inflammation of a vein. Sometimes an IV can cause phlebitis, as can certain drugs (such as Phenergan) given through the IV line. The vein inflammation can result in redness, tenderness, and swelling of the affected arm. If you develop any of these symptoms, report them immediately to the doctor or nurse. If left untreated, phlebitis can turn into an infection. Treatment usually consists of moist heat compresses, analgesics for pain, and elevation of the affected arm.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are commonplace after surgery. These symptoms are often the result of the anaesthesia and/or painkillers. It’s important to note that gynaecologic surgery produces more nausea and vomiting than many other types of surgery. In many cases, nausea can be avoided if the anaesthesiologist pre-treats with an anti-nausea medication. Post-surgical medications are also available. Home measures for nausea include ginger tea, ginger ale, and soda crackers (biscuits). Laying flat may also lessen these symptoms.

Pain

Almost everyone will experience some degree of pain following surgery. Do not be a martyr and attempt to “deal with the pain.” This will cause your body to become more stressed, you will not get adequate rest, and healing will be delayed. If your doctor has prescribed pain medication, take it as directed. It’s important not to wait until the pain becomes unbearable to take your medication. After a time, your body will heal and the surgical pain will diminish.

Fatigue

Many women are exceptionally tired for several weeks following surgery. Rest as much as possible and do not do anything strenuous, even if your mind is willing. When you go back to your routine, plan rest breaks into your day. Also, be sure you’re taking a daily multi-vitamin and getting adequate B vitamins through diet or supplementation. (Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any supplements before or after surgery.)

Scarring

Laparoscopy scars usually heal nicely on their own. However, if you want to encourage less scarring, you might try one of the new scar treatments that are available from your local pharmacy. Vitamin E has been used for a number of years to help heal wounds faster and cause less scarring. Getting adequate rest and eating a good, balanced diet will also encourage proper wound healing. If scars persist and are bothersome to you, you may want to consult a dermatologist (skin doctor) about possible treatments to fade the scars more quickly.

Infection

You will probably not experience wound infection from laparoscopy. However, it’s important to know that all surgery carries some risk of infection. With laparoscopy, infection may occur at the site of the incision or it may develop internally. Contact your doctor immediately if your oral temperature goes above 100° Fahrenheit (37.8° Celsius) or if you develop any redness, discharge, or swelling. Do not wait or attempt to self-treat infections. Infections are usually taken care of with antibiotics.

Headaches

Ironically, strong painkillers often cause headaches. If you have a bothersome headache, contact your doctor to see if you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen for pain relief. To self-treat, try massaging lavender oil onto the site of the pain.

Hematomas or seromas

Rarely, blood or fluid may “pool” under the skin near an incision site. Since it is difficult for those undergoing surgery to distinguish between benign conditions and more serious complications, be sure to report any swelling to your doctor. Often, hematomas and seromas go away on their own, but they may be tender in the meantime.

Insomnia or nightmares

Women often report insomnia or nightmares following surgery, which may be accompanied by anxiety and fear. Be assured that this is a temporary condition that will eventually go away. In the meantime, you might want to try chamomile tea, relaxation tapes, or aromatherapy.

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