What to expect after surgery
When you wake up from surgery, you will be in a recovery room near the operating theatre. Once you are fully conscious, you will be taken back to your bed on the hospital ward. The surgeon will visit you as soon as possible to explain the results of the operation.
Learn more about:
Tubes and drips
You are likely to have several tubes in place, which will be removed as you recover:
- a drip inserted into a vein in your arm (intravenous drip) will give you fluid, medicines and pain relief
- a small plastic tube (catheter) may be inserted into your bladder to collect urine in a bag
- a tube may be inserted down your nose into your stomach (nasogastric tube) to drain stomach fluid and prevent vomiting
- tubes may be inserted in your abdomen to drain fluid from the site of the operation.
After an operation, it is common to feel some pain, but this can be controlled. For the first day or two, you may be given pain medicine through:
- a drip into a vein (intravenous drip)
- a local anaesthetic injection into the abdomen (a transverse abdominis plane or TAP block) or into the spine (an epidural)
- a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) system – you press a button to give yourself a measured dose of pain relief.
Let your doctor or nurse know if you are in pain so they can adjust the medicine. Managing your pain will help you to recover and move around more quickly.
I felt great relief after the surgery, as once the tumour had been removed, the pain that I had in my lower abdomen and hip was gone. — Ann
It is common to have daily injections of a blood thinner to reduce the risk of blood clots. These injections may continue for some time after the operation and while you’re having chemotherapy. A nurse will show you how to give this injection to yourself before you leave hospital.
Compression devices and stockings
You will need to use compression devices or wear elastic stockings to keep the blood in your legs circulating. Once you are able to move around, compression devices will be removed so you can get out of bed, but you may still wear the stockings for a couple of weeks.
You can expect some light vaginal bleeding after the surgery, which should stop within two weeks. Your doctor will talk to you about how to keep the wound clean once you go home to prevent it becoming infected.
If you had part of the bowel removed and have a stoma, a stomal therapy nurse will explain how to manage it.
Length of stay
You will probably stay in hospital for several days after a big operation. Your hospital stay will usually be shorter after a laparoscopy or smaller operation.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono legal and financial matters, no interest loans or help with small business
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment