Special Diets

If you used a special diet (like low salt) before surgery, ask your surgeon if you should follow it during recovery.

Coping with Nausea

  • Try easily digested foods (soup, toast, crackers, ginger ale, gelatin).
  • Avoid fatty foods because they are difficult to digest.
  • Eat smaller amounts of food more often.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Drinking Fluids

Patients lose fluids during surgery so replacing fluids helps restore your body's chemical balance. Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily (6-8 ounces each) unless you are instructed to restrict fluids.

From Fluids to Solids

After surgery, you may want only liquids (tea, soda, clear soup). Gradually begin to eat semi-solid foods (mashed potatoes, applesauce, gelatin) and then regular foods when you feel ready.


Be sure to follow specific discharge instructions from your surgeon and/or nurse regarding activity. Expect to feel tired following surgery, since most of your energy is being used for healing. Plan to relax before returning to your normal activities.

Recovery Activities

  • Deep Breathing and Coughing
    These exercises boost circulation, clear your lungs and lower your pneumonia risk. Breathe deeply and cough several times daily until any incision pain is gone. If you have an abdominal incision, use a pillow to support your incision during coughing or other movement.
  • Walking
    Limit walking and stair climbing to bathroom visits and the dinner table. Be sure to stand slowly to prevent dizziness.
  • Bathing
    Avoid bathtubs until your surgeon approves. Soaking in hot water can open your incision area. Instead, take warm showers once your surgeon and/or nurse advises it.
  • Driving
    Avoid driving until your surgeon approves. Turning or braking suddenly could strain or open your incision area.
  • Exercise and Sports
    Ask your surgeon when it's safe to return to your regular exercise program. Work back to exercise gradually so you do not get overtired or stress your surgery area.

Incision Care

If you have an incision dressing, or a post-operative tube or drain, keep it clean and dry. Either type of care is easy and requires minimal time and medical knowledge. A nurse will instruct you and a family member about incision care.


To ease pain and swelling after surgery on your leg, arm or head, your surgeon may advise you to keep your incision elevated.


Keep your dressing dry. Water can weaken sutures, open an incision and encourage bacteria growth, which can lead to infection. Your surgeon will advise you when it is safe to shower and may suggest a plastic dressing cover to keep it dry. If you have a surgical tube or drain, keep it clean and dry. If the tube falls out (do not panic), call your surgeon.

Signs of Infection

A slightly red, swollen incision is normal. Call your surgeon if you have:

  • Discharge that has odor
  • Excessive swelling
  • Fever (Take your temperature twice daily, and if it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher after 3 days call your surgeon.)
  • Increased redness


Slight pink incision discharge is normal. If you have increased discharge that is bright red, apply a clean washcloth to your incision with slight pressure and call your surgeon.

Pain Medication

You may experience pain during recovery because minor surgery causes tissue swelling and disruption. Take your pain medication as directed. It will make you more comfortable as you move around. Taking your pain medication at night also assures a good night's rest.