Learn more about progress after thoracic surgery.

Each morning the thoracic surgical team makes rounds. Doctors, nurses, and other members of the team will come into your room to examine you and review your progress over the past 24 hours.

Deep Breathing and Coughing

Your lungs need to stay clear for you to breathe well. The nursing staff will have you take deep breaths and cough while you are recovering from your surgery. This will help prevent any problems in the lungs like fluid build up or infection.

A special device called an "Incentive Spirometer" is used to help you breathe more deeply. The nurse will show you how to use this device or similar piece of equipment and have you practice several times a day.

Activities

With your nurse's help, you will be able to get out of bed the day after your surgery.

Each day you'll increase the distance you walk. Your goal should be to increase the distance and the length of time you are walking, but not the speed at which you walk. By the time you leave the hospital, you should be walking 500 feet at least four times a day. You should be able to walk up and down 10 to 13 stairs by the evening of the fourth day after surgery.The staff will make sure you balance your rest and activities.

Your legs should be kept up and elevated when you are sitting in a chair or lying in bed. This is to keep your legs from getting swollen. Don't let your legs dangle over the side of the bed or from a chair for more than 15 minutes. You will also be shown some leg exercises to do to keep the swelling down and improve the circulation in your legs.

You'll probably be able to take your first shower either on the evening of your third day or the morning of the fourth day after surgery.

Constipation

Constipation occurs when your bowel slows down and you are unable to have a bowel movement. This can be caused by anesthesia, pain medication, inactivity, or limited fluid and food intake.

Sometimes a laxative, stool softener or enema can help you have a bowel movement. Constipation is not serious and will get better once you are up and around more and are eating and drinking better.

Patient Education

Your nurses and doctors will explain all procedures and plans with you. If at any time you have questions, feel free to ask.

You'll receive written discharge instructions which will include general guidelines about what you should and should not do at home, information about your medications, and an individualized activity plan.

You can use the Patient and Family Learning Center (PFLC) to learn more about your condition and surgery. The PFLC is located on the first floor in the main hallway of the hospital and serves as a health library for patients and families who want to learn more about their health. Books, pamphlets, videos and Internet access is able to help you research and learn about a health issue. The PFLC is open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

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