Your Hospital Stay

Immediately after your surgery, if you require any special care you will be moved to the intensive care unit. Eventually, you will be transferred to a regular room for the rest of your stay.

The average hospital stay is 5-7 days for major abdominal resections. Hospital stays after laparoscopic procedures tend to be shorter.

Tubes and/or Attachments

During your stay you may be fitted with the following tubes and/or attachments:

  • Nasogastric tube: a tube that is placed through your nose and into your stomach to be used for what is called "decompression" (draining of stomach and intestinal fluids)
  • Intravenous (IV) tube: a small sterile tube that is put into a vein and hooked up to a bag of fluid to insure you receive necessary hydration
  • Drains: small rubber drains put into the lower part of your abdomen that are used to drain any fluid that might collect in your surgical site
  • Foley catheter: a tube inserted into your bladder that is used to keep your bladder drained of urine while also allowing for the tracking of your urinary output
  • Ostomy pouch: the pouch that will contain your stool
  • Leg stockings (called SCDs): stockings placed on your legs that provide intermittent pressure to keep your leg circulation going to avoid the development of blood clots

Wound Dressings

If you have an open wound you will have an abdominal dressing which will need to be changed by the nurses two to three times daily. A closed wound will have staples that will be removed one to two weeks after your surgery.

Breathing Exercises

You will need to do breathing exercises using a device called an incentive spirometer or Inspirex every hour while awake to keep from getting pneumonia or other lung problems. Your bedside nurse can show you how to do these exercises.

Pain Control

You will be given pain medicine to control any post-surgical pain or you may have a PCA (Patient-Controlled Analgesia) which will allow you to self-administer your pain medicine intravenously. If the medicine does not control the pain then you will need to tell your nurse or doctor.


As soon as you are given approval by your doctor (generally the day after surgery), you will need to get out of bed (with assistance) and start walking. This will help to improve recovery time and help prevent breathing and circulation problems, as well as stimulate bowel function.

Ostomy Care

If your surgery has resulted in an ostomy then the ostomy nurse will visit you regularly to teach you how to care for your ostomy pouch.

Food and Drink

A clear liquid diet is usually started early after the surgery. Your diet will be advanced as tolerated once bowel function returns as verified by the doctors and nurses by listening for bowel sounds (gurgling). Also, you should be passing gas through your rectum, or have gas in your ostomy pouch if you have had surgery resulting in an ostomy. Regardless, you will need to relax and chew your food well, eating small bites.