Whether you’re preparing for surgery or entering the postoperative phase, you need to understand what to expect with hernia recovery. Everyone heals and recovers at a different rate. As anxious and excited as you may feel about no longer having a hernia, you’ll need to give yourself time and extra self-care to help speed up the process. Rushing to get back to your normal activities can prolong the recovery and lead to complications.
At Orange County Robotic General Surgery, we understand how frustrating and limiting recovering from hernia surgery can be. Check out the following tips for a general idea of what to expect during recovery so you can get back to living life on your terms and hernia free.
Postoperative Discharge to Recovery at Home
Open hernia surgery patients often spend a few days in the hospital for postoperative observation. Most minimally invasive, laparoscopic, and robotic-assisted surgery patients are sent home a couple of hours after their procedures. Patients who undergo abdominal wall reconstruction or have complex or multiple hernias treated may spend a small portion of their recovery in the hospital for monitoring before discharge home.
Ultimately, your recovery is highly dependent on your surgeon’s expertise, the type of hernia you had repaired, and the type of surgery used to correct it. Your age, overall health, and the steps you take to care for yourself after surgery are also key components.
Hernia Recovery: The First 24 Hours Home
The first 24 hours after hernia surgery are critical. It takes time for the effects of anesthesia and other medications used during surgery to wear off. Though patients are awake and capable of moving around, their cognitive and motor functions may still be impaired. We advise patients to avoid making major decisions, engaging in mentally taxing activities, operating motor vehicles or machinery, and using sharp objects.
After surgery, it is normal to experience pain, tightness, pulling, cramping and mild discomfort in the treatment area. These sensations are common and will become less noticeable within a few weeks. Many hernia surgery patients often feel better much sooner and no longer require pain medications after several days.
Work – Stress and work duties can impede the recovery process. We advise hernia surgery patients to arrange for time off from their jobs for the first few weeks after their procedures. Additional time off may be necessary for patients with jobs that require strenuous movements and heavy lifting.
Pain Medications – Take all postoperative medications and analgesics as directed until you no longer need them. Avoid waiting until the pain or discomfort returns before taking the next dose.
Rest and Sleep – Surgery is a major traumatic event for the body. It can take some time to adjust to the post-operative stage. Proper rest is extremely critical. It’s quite common to experience fatigue and low energy during the first few days to weeks. Don’t ignore your body and frequently assess yourself so you can rest as often as necessary. Rest is essential to good health and a vital component of the healing and recovery process.
Avoid sleeping on the stomach or side. These sleep positions can aggravate the hernia site and increase pain, swelling, and overall discomfort. In rare cases, stomach sleeping can damage the treatment area.
Activity Restrictions – Modify your daily activities during the first few weeks. Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities to conserve energy and strength to protect the surgical area from additional strain and trauma. Refrain from biking, running, and moderate to high impact activities and exercises until your surgeon says it’s safe for you to resume. Take short walks to help strengthen your abdominal muscles and help them heal. Walking is also an excellent way to boost blood circulation and regulate bowel function to prevent constipation.
Some involuntary movements are not always avoidable, such as coughing, sneezing, and laughing. These actions and moving from a sitting-to-standing position and vice versa can be extremely uncomfortable right after hernia surgery. Patients can alleviate much of the pain and discomfort they may experience by gently holding a firm pillow or cushion for additional support against their abdomen/stomach.
Hygiene – Follow your surgeon’s orders for bathing and showers. Each patient’s situation and care plan are different. Showers are generally advised after the first 24 to 48 hours. Avoid baths and pools until the surgeon says it’s safe to resume. Avoid rubbing and pulling at the incisions or surgical site. Keep the area dry.
Diet and Hydration – Eat small meals and drink lots of clear fluids. Avoid carbonated and caffeinated beverages as these can cause bloating and pain in the affected area. Caffeinated drinks can also lead to dehydration and bowel irregularity, straining, abdominal pain, and hemorrhoids. Refrain from alcohol and recreational drugs to prevent complications with recovery.
Abdominal Support – Before discharge home, patients may receive an abdominal binder to wear for support to help protect their hernia repair site and stomach muscles from injury and stress. Many patients find that the compression garment helps to minimize their discomfort and pain.
The average time to recover is four to six weeks. Many patients heal faster than others. Advanced medical techniques and technology reduce the risk of complications, but they can occur in rare cases. Patients should follow their care plan and attend all follow-up appointments with their hernia surgeon.
To find out if inguinal hernia repair surgery is right for you, Contact Orange County General Robotic Surgery at (714) 706-1257 for a consultation with Dr. Abtin H. Khosravi.