After Your Surgery

  • You will wake up in a recovery room and will spend anywhere from an hour to several hours in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) before being transported to your hospital room.
  • Some patients require admission to the intensive care unit for close monitoring. Others may be admitted to a regular hospital room. Your surgeon will determine the appropriate hospital room.
  • The night after your surgery, you will be offered ice chips and sips, or in some cases, a clear liquid diet.  Please take it slow and easy with these to help prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • You will have patient-controlled analgesia (pain control) or nurse-controlled analgesia, depending on your operation.  Your nurse will advise you on this.
  • All patients undergoing surgery are at risk of developing blood clots in their legs. This is a problem that we need your help to prevent!
    • Frequent walking can lower the risk of blood clots. Starting on the day after surgery, please contact your nurse to assist you with walking outside of your room 5 times every 24-hour period after your surgery. Please notify your nurse when you are ready to walk.
    • You will also be prescribed specialized stockings and compression boots for your legs. Please wear these at least 23 hours per day.
    • You will also be prescribed a blood thinner (heparin) that is given in the form of a tiny skin shot 1-3 times daily. The frequency of shots needed depends on the type of heparin used and your risk for blood clots.
  • Typically, it is OK to shower on post-operative day #2 and daily thereafter as desired.
  • When you are first recovering from surgery, you will be hooked up to a machine to deliver fluids intravenously (“IV”). As your recovery advances, your IV fluids will be decreased and then discontinued. Your diet will be advanced as your bowels begin to function (passing gas), and your medications will be transitioned from IV to oral forms (pill, tablet, or liquid).
  • Typically, we send patients home when they are eating well, their pain is controlled, and their bowels are functioning (passing gas).  On average, patients spend 1-2 nights in the hospital after a laparoscopic adrenalectomy and 3-5 nights following an open surgery.
  • Your surgical team (surgeon, residents, nursing staff, and nursing assistants) will be watching you very closely to identify problems that may occur after surgery.  The surgical residents will come to see and examine you very early every morning. 
  • As you recover, we watch closely for signs of infection, bleeding, or other postoperative problems.  In rare cases, these problems become serious, and it is necessary to move a patient to the ICU for intensive care.  In other cases, again uncommonly, it is necessary to bring a patient back to the operating room for further treatment.  In these unusual cases, your family will be kept informed.  
  • Important: To prevent infections, please wash your hands frequently and ask your visitors to do the same.  Do not hesitate to ask any of your caregivers if they washed their hands or used alcohol rub before they are in contact with you.


Care at Home

  • Remain active and walk several times daily.  It is OK to be outside of your house.
  • Showering is OK. However, do not take a bath until you have been out of the hospital at least 10 days and your wound is completely healed.
  • If you have had a laparoscopic operation, you may begin physical activity and exercise as soon as your postoperative pain and soreness have resolved. If you have had open surgery, you will need approximately 8 weeks of recovery before you will be able to return to normal physical activity or exercise.
  • If you have an open adrenalectomy, there may be staples or sutures in place that need to be removed around 10-14 days after your surgery. 
  • Resume your regular medications at home.
  • Pain control: You will be given a prescription for a narcotic pain medication. Please use this medication only for pain that is not controlled by Tylenol and/or ibuprofen. For most patients, 400 mg (2 tablets) of ibuprofen every 8 hours should provide very good pain relief.


Common Issues During Recovery

  • You may feel tired for several days or longer.
  • You may experience some constipation that is usually due to the pain medication.  If you experience this problem, take a laxative such as Colace® or Milk of Magnesia twice a day while you are on the pain medication.


When to Contact Your Doctor

  • If you have a fever above 101 degrees
  • If you notice redness or drainage from your incision
  • If you have increasing abdominal pain
  • If you experience vomiting more than once
  • If you have pain or swelling in your legs
  • If you have difficulty breathing
  • If you have chest pain
  • If you are experiencing painful urination or decrease in your urinary output
  • If you cannot eat and drink
  • If you have any other concerning symptoms that are not listed here

For non-emergency issues or questions during regular business hours, please call Angela Fauth at (303) 724-2724.

For after-hours, non-emergency medical issues, you may contact the answering service at (303) 724-2728 or call the hospital operator at (720) 848-0000 and ask for the surgery resident on call.

For medical emergencies, dial 911 or go to closest emergency department.

This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.