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JAMA Patient Page
August 23/30, 2016

Planning to Return Home After Surgery

JAMA. 2016;316(8):892. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4468

Planning ahead before a scheduled surgery will help you be able to return home safely.

Before your surgery, make sure someone will be available to help at home with things like cooking, getting to the bathroom, or driving you to doctor’s appointments until you are healed. Even if you go home on the same day of the operation, you will need someone to stay with you at home. You might meet discharge planners at the hospital, such as social workers or case managers, to help you prepare. Do not be afraid to ask lots of questions.

Caring for Your Incisions

Doctors and nurses will explain how to care for your incisions before you leave the hospital. Directions will also be given to you on paper. Normal reactions such as numbness and swelling might happen as your body heals. Sometimes you might need extra help caring for your incisions or wounds at home. Discharge planners at the hospital will help you arrange for wound care services if needed.

Medications

You may be asked to take new medications or change your normal medications. Medications, especially pain medications, can be very dangerous if not taken correctly. It is very important that you understand how and when to take your medications.

Activities

There may be things you should not do after your surgery. You will be given a list of what you should and should not do after you leave the hospital and for how long. It is very important to know what is safe for you to do before you leave the hospital. Walking and light exercise are usually good for you, but it depends on the type of surgery you have. If you normally drive, it is important to ask if it is safe for you to drive after the surgery.

Drains and Tubing

You may leave the hospital with surgical drains, catheters, or tubing in place. These tools help you recover. Your surgeon usually removes them later when they are no longer needed. If you leave the hospital with any of these in place, your surgeon and your nurses will teach you how to take care of them.

When to Contact Your Surgeon

Sometimes unexpected issues from your surgery happen after you leave the hospital even if everything went well. Common symptoms to watch for depend on the type of surgery. You will get directions about when you should call your surgeon before you leave the hospital. Always call 911 or go to the closest emergency room if you have any chest pain, shortness of breath, or symptoms that are quickly getting worse.

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For More Information

To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA’s website at www.jama.com. Spanish translations are available in the supplemental content tab.

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
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Article Information

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

Sources: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Family Caregiver Alliance

Topic: Surgery

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