Your doctor will tell you when to start cleaning your wound daily with soap and water. Look carefully for any changes to the wound as you do this.
Pat your wound dry. Do not rub it dry.
Ask your doctor before putting any lotion, cream, or herbal remedy on your wound.
Do not wear tight clothing that rubs against your wound while it is healing. Use a thin gauze pad over it to protect it if needed.
If you have a colostomy, follow care instructions from your doctor or nurse. Sitting on a pillow may make you more comfortable if the surgery was in your rectum.
Eat small amounts of food 5 to 8 times a day. Do not eat 3 big meals.
Space out your small meals. Wait the same amount of time between each one.
Add new foods back into your diet slowly--one or two at a time.
Try to eat plenty of protein.
Some foods may cause gas, loose stools, or constipation as you recover. Avoid foods that cause problems.
If you become sick to your stomach or have diarrhea, avoid solid foods and drink only clear fluids for a little while. Call your doctor.
If you have hard stools:
Try to get up and walk around more. Being more active can help.
If you can, take less of the pain medicines your doctor gave you. They can make you constipated.
You may use stool softeners if your doctor tells you it is okay.
Ask your doctor if you can take milk of magnesia or magnesium citrate. Do not take other laxatives without asking your doctor first.
Ask the doctor if it is okay to eat foods that contain a lot of fiber or take psyllium (Metamucil).
Returning to Work
Return to work only when you feel ready to. These tips may help:
You may be ready when you can be active around the house for 8 hours and still feel okay when you wake up the next morning.
You may want to start back part-time and on light duty at first.
Your doctor can write a letter to limit your work activities if you do heavy labor.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if:
You have a fever over 101 °F or a fever that does not go away with acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Your belly is swollen.
You feel sick to your stomach or you are throwing up a lot. Or, you cannot keep food down.
You have not had a bowel movement 4 days after leaving the hospital.
You have been having bowel movements and they suddenly stop.
You have black or tarry stools, or there is blood in your stools.
You are having belly pain that is getting worse, and pain medicines are not helping to ease your pain.
You are short of breath or are having chest pain.
Your legs are swelling.
There are changes in your wound from the surgery:
The edges are pulling apart.
Green or yellow drainage is coming from it.
It is redder, warm, swelling, or more painful.
Your bandage is soaked with blood.
Fry RD, Mahmoud N, Maron DJ, Ross HM, Rombeau J. Coln and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 50.
Robert A. Cowles, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.