What to expect after surgery
While you are recovering after surgery, your health care team will check your progress and help you with the following:
You will have some pain and discomfort for several days after surgery. You will be given pain-relieving medicines to manage this. If you are in pain when you return home, talk to your medical team about prescribing pain medicine.
You may have a thin tube placed in the wound to drain excess fluid into a small bag. The tube is usually removed after a few days, but may be left in for longer. Surgical drains are never permanent.
Drips and tubes
While in hospital, you will have a drip (intravenous infusion) to replace your body’s fluids. At first you won’t be able to eat or drink (nil by mouth). You’ll then be on a liquid diet before gradually returning to normal food. A temporary feeding tube may be placed into the small bowel during the operation. This tube provides extra nutrition until you can eat and drink normally again. The hospital dietitian can help you manage changes to eating.
Some people will need to take tablets known as pancreatic enzymes after surgery. These are taken with each meal to help digest fat and protein.
Because the pancreas produces insulin, people who have had all or some of their pancreas removed often develop diabetes after surgery. They may need regular insulin injections (up to four times per day). Learn some tips for coping with diabetes.
Your health care team will probably encourage you to walk the day after surgery. They will also provide advice about when you can get back to your usual activity levels.
Length of hospital stay
Most people go home within two weeks, but if you have complications, you may need to stay in hospital longer. You may need rehabilitation to help you regain physical strength. This may be as an inpatient in a rehabilitation centre or through a home-based rehabilitation program.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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