What is not normal during your recovery from surgery? The Warning Signs of potential postoperative complications

surgical_nurse_Once a patient has been discharged from the hospital after surgery, they need to know when their recovery has changed from a normal recovery to one that may need medical intervention.

In case of any of the following symptoms in the weeks following surgery, the surgeon should be called for further instructions. A visit to the Emergency may be required especially if it is out of hours or the surgeon feels that he cannot analyse the symptoms without a clinical examination or when uncertainty exists about the seriousness of the symptoms  and he is uncertain whether the symptoms can be managed at home.

Fever Over 101 Degrees

A slight fever is not uncommon after having surgery, but a fever over 101 degrees may indicate the presence of an infection. A fever that does not respond to treatment with anti fever medication is especially worrisome and should not be ignored.

Unexplained Leg Pain

One of the major risks of surgery is the development of blood clots in the legs, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can be very dangerous as they can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs or brain, causing difficulty breathing, a stroke, or other problems.

Pus, Drainage or Streaks from Your Incision

Small amounts of clear drainage may come out of your incision in the days after surgery, but fluid coming from the incision that looks like pus or smells foul is a sign of infection. Red streaks on the skin that move away from the incision can also be a warning sign of infection.

The Incision Begins to Pull Apart

If the incision begins to separate, the surgeon should be contacted immediately. The wound should be covered with a moist bandage or clean piece of cloth, and medical attention should be sought. This complication may be prevented by holding pressure on the incision when coughing, rising from a chair, or sneezing.

Inability to Urinate or Have a Bowel Movement


Constipation or having difficulty urinating should not occur because Straining to have a bowel movement or urinate can increase the pressure in the abdomen and put stress on incisions, and these symptoms can be signs of more severe complications.

Inability to urinate at all for more than six hours is an emergency and would need to be resolved in the hospital

Bloody, Very Dark Bowel Movements

The patient might have been prescribed medication to build up the blood hemoglobin levels but these may also be signs of blood in the stool and should be reported immediately.

Coughing Up or Vomiting Blood

These are signs of a potential medical emergency, where blood is in the stomach or lungs. Contacting the hospital and the operating surgeon is necessary as catastrophic bleeding can occur in a life threatening and very unpredictable manner.

Severe, Unexplained, or Uncontrollable Pain

If postoperative pain was manageable after surgery but then becomes significantly worse or uncontrollable with no clear explanation, there may be a surgical complication.Pain is typically the worst on the second or third day after surgery. If pain is improving daily, then suddenly becomes significantly worse for no apparent reason, this is a warning and should not be ignored.

Difficulty Breathing

A change in the ability to breathe is a significant problem after surgery and may indicate a serious problem, such as a blood clot in the lung or a possible lung complication e a pneumonia. This symptom should never be ignored.

Inability to Eat

If discharged home to recover, it is understood that the patient is able to obtain adequate nutrition from his or her diet. If that is not the case, the patient’s ability to eat changes or they cannot keep food and fluids down because of repeated vomiting, the surgeon should be notified.

Increasing Weakness, Inability to Care for one’s own self

If  the patient seems to be getting weaker instead of stronger after discharge from the hospital, or is not able to care for himself in a routine manner, recovery may be in jeopardy. Normally, the patient should slowly be getting stronger after the procedure, not having increasing difficulty with normal activities.

Unexplained Headaches

If one does not normally suffer from severe headaches, one should seek medical attention. A severe headache can be caused by a blood clot traveling to the brain after surgery. There are other causes and a diagnostic workup is mandatory.