Hospital recovery room

After surgery you will be moved to a recovery room. This is an area near the operating theatre with monitoring equipment and specially trained staff. In some hospitals, it may be called a recovery ward or post-anaesthesia care unit. It might be a shared space or a private room.

People who need a high level of care will go into the high dependency unit (HDU) or intensive care unit (ICU). You will be moved out of the HDU or ICU as your condition improves. Your doctor will tell you before surgery if it’s likely you will be moved to one of these units.

While the anaesthetic wears off, a nurse will check your wound, pain levels and vital signs. They will also give you medicine or fluids to help reduce side effects caused by the anaesthetic.

You will have several tubes in place. Once you have woken up, you will be moved from the recovery room:

  • If you had day surgery, you will stay in the day surgery unit until the nurses decide that you are well enough to go home.
  • If you had surgery as an inpatient and are staying in hospital to recover, you will be moved from the recovery room to a ward.

Tubes and drains

intravenous (IV) drip
  • inserted into a vein in your arm or hand
  • gives you fluids until you can eat and drink again
  • also used to give pain relief and other medicines
  • may be in place for a few hours or a few days, depending on the surgery

tube down your throat

  • used to help you breathe during surgery
  • usually removed while you are under anaesthetic, but may stay in if you go to HDU or ICU

surgical drain

  • a tube placed in the wound to drain excess fluid into a small bottle or bag
  • usually removed after a few days, depending on how much fluid is being collected and the type of operation

urinary catheter

  • a thin tube that drains urine from your bladder into a bag
  • usually removed when you start walking after surgery and can get to the toilet, or when your epidural pain relief is finished

nasogastric (NG) tube

  • a thin tube placed through your nose into the stomach
  • removes fluid from the stomach until bowel function returns to normal

feeding tube

  • may be needed if you are unable to eat and drink after surgery
  • a tube is placed into your stomach or small bowel, either through your nostril or through an opening on the outside of your abdomen
  • usually temporary, but sometimes permanent

This information was last reviewed in April 2019
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