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Post Op Care for Colon Surgery Patient
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Post Op Care for Colon Surgery Patient

Thank you for providing this forum! My question is this: my 68 year old reasonably healthy mother will have 24 inches of colon removed and after a week to ten days in the hopsital,  will require post op care at home in the weeks after surgery.  My sister and I believe that Mother needs an in-home nurse to care for her and any complications that may arise after surgery. What is your best advice on how we should prepare? Many Thanks, Jennifer Grayson
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Surgeon has kindly addressed your question in his comments below and I agree with his assessment.  

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Thanks,
Kevin, M.D.
5 Comments
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of course it's hard to predict. If there were complications, then home care might be complex. However, the typical colon cancer patient, by the time they get home, will not need special care, unless it's planned that there'd be a colostomy. Especially if she's really going to be in a week to 10 days (where I practice it's more like 3-5 days). Tiredness is the thing most people feel after any major surgery. She should be up and around on her own, eating a normal diet. She probably would need help getting shopping done, perhaps some routine housework help. But unless there are problems, she'd not likely need skilled nursing help. Ask her surgeon what he/she would advise.
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like the surgeon said, her doc will give her instructions and limitations.  

I've had 3 major bowel surgeries and several other abdominal surgeries.  I live alone and I only needed home nursing care when I had complications (abscesses, etc) that needed attention.  here's a few hints that might help, especially if she is having an open and not laparoscopic procedure.

use a pillow/folded blanket or towel to press against her abdomen when she laughs, sneezes, or coughs.  sneezing was the worst for me since they catch you off guard.

getting up from a horizontal position can be tough at first.  I would slide my legs off the side of the bed/couch and put my feet on the floor.  then I would kind of slide off the bed so that I was squatting and then stand from that position.  I know others that would turn on thier stomach and then slide off that way.

she'll be tired and want to sleep a lot the first week or two at home and that's pretty normal.  it can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to recover and up to 6 months before you really feel back to your usual self.  she'll have to give it time, and not be too ambitious and push too hard.  

you might want to prepare some quick meals ahead of time that can be microwaved.  she most likely won't be able to drive for a while (2 weeks usually for me) and since she'll be on pain meds, it's probably not a good idea anyway.  ask her doc if she needs to be on stool softeners while taking the pain meds.

I couldn't reach up high very well cause the stretching really hurt, so I made sure and moved a few things down out of higher cabinets (especially the laundry soap).      

another thing is that I always experience what I call post-anesthesia blues.  I think a combination of the meds and the buildup and stress of the surgery all combine and lead to a bout of the blues after surgery.  from talking to others, it's not uncommon.

oh, and a nice thing to do right before the surgery is to get/do a pedicure.  it's a nice chance to pamper herself and she won't be reaching her feet for a while afterwards.

take care
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I had a colon resection three years ago, with about 18 inches removed.  I am 56.  I did not require any special care at home.  It is very important that the patient gets up and walks.  The nurses will be hekping her do this in the hospital.  The more you walk, the faster the intestines will "wake up" and healing can begin.  It is painful, but gets easier everyday.  Have her eat very nutritious food, as this will help the body heal too. The nurses showed me how to get out of bed.  Can't really explain it, but using the elbow first to get the upper body going, then the feet over the side of the bed.  The main thing after surgery is the exciting moment :) when she passes gas.  This is important.  Some people do this after just a few days, and others have to wait longer for this to happen.  I was in the hospital for 8 days.  They won't let you go home until this happens, and sometimes they want you to actually have a bowel movement too.  I had no problems with bowel movements--just loose stools for a few days after  I got home.  Some people have more problems with that, and I think it depends on which part of the colon was affected.  I do go more often now, sometimes three times a day.  There is less storage space now!  Good luck with everything.
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At 37 years old I had 36+ removed. Even though I prepared for the procedure by being as physically and nutritionally fit as possible, it kicked my butt!  As previously posted, getting the colon to wake up is key.  This period was extremely painful for me.  I have three children but mistakenly told the family we didn't need help. I was thankful that my mother-in-law, a registered nurse, showed up at our door and stayed with me for a week.  Your mother can expect to be in a lot of pain until the intestines fully wake up.  After that period however, she will be weak but functional for a couple of weeks.  

In hindsight, having help for the first week was helpful.  I would imagine that an older individual might need help longer.
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thank you for your comments on post-op experiences with colon surgery.  after reading about your extensive surgeries, my anxiety over having just a one-inch section of my sigmoid colon (so the surgeon anticipates) removed has lessened.  i will have surgery in january and have just started searching the internet for a forum such as this.  being able to share experiences with others brings me much relief!
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