Preventing Complications

Unity Point Health

Watch this video on Preventing Problems After Surgery.


Can occur due to limited mobility and shallow breathing.

  • Use your incentive spirometer as instructed
  • Take deep breaths and nice deep coughs hourly while you are awake
  • Increase activity as tolerated
  • Decrease or stop smoking
  • Avoid second hand smoke, and dust
  • Avoid persons who are ill, have cold symptoms, fevers, measles, chickenpox
  • Wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer if you are unable to wash hands

Blood Clots

Can occur due to limited mobility. Please watch this video on Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) After Surgery.

  • Wear your TED hose as instructed (generally 1 month; on during day, off at night)
  • Increase activity as tolerated
  • Know what “blood thinner” you are taking and take it as directed
  • Do not stay in a dependent position for greater than 30 minutes: Example sitting in chair in same position
  • If on the blood thinner Coumadin or Warafin check your blood levels(INR) as instructed by your physician. Have lab or yourself report blood levels(INR) to the physician.
  • Report any pain/redness/swelling (burning sensation) to the back of your thigh (hamstring), or back of calf muscle
  • Change positions frequently if laying or sitting
  • While sitting or laying down: Stretch or do ankle pumps: Point toes towards your head, feel the stretch, relax, repeat


Can occur due to limited mobility and/or as a side effect to narcotic pain medications. Ensure you have regular bowel movements by taking stool softeners as instructed; or stronger stimulant laxatives if needed. Maintain a high fiber diet with the foods listed below

  • Fiber-rich fruits include: bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries.
  • Vegetables:Generally, the darker the color, the higher the fiber content. Fill up your shopping cart with: carrots, beets, broccoli, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, artichokes, potatoes (russet, red, and sweet).
  • Beans and legumes are flavorful, fiber-filled additions to salads, soups, and chilis. Navy, white, garbanzo, kidney, peas, or lentils are all healthy choices.
  • Breads & Grains: Whole grain breads: Select 7-grain, dark rye, cracked wheat, pumpernickel. Make sure “whole wheat” or another whole grain is listed as the first ingredient. Grains: Try bulgur wheat, brown rice, wild rice, and barley instead of white rice. Cereals: Look for those with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Fluids Drink 6-8 Glasses of water daily ( Unless fluid restricted by physican). Avoid dehydrating liquids: Drinks high in caffeine, energy drinks, soda-pop, coffee, teas.

Activity Maintain your activity level, walking as prescribed by physician therapy: Walking increases intestinal motility (keeping bowels activity). Decrease dependent activity: staying in chair or position for more than 30 minutes.


Can occur due to due to a number of reasons, including lack of incision care. Follow Incision care instructions provided to you at discharge. Here are some key ways you can help prevent infection:

  • If you do not see your providers or visitors clean their hands, please ask them to do so.
  • Tell your doctor about other medical problems you may have. Health problems such as allergies, diabetes, and obesity could affect your surgery and your treatment.
  • Before you go home, your doctor or nurse should explain everything you need to know about taking care of your wound. Make sure you understand how to care for your wound before you leave the hospital.
  • Always clean your hands before and after caring for your wound.
  • If you have any symptoms of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgery site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor immediately.

Wound Care

  • No tub bath, swimming, or hot tubs until instructed by your doctor
  • No lotions, creams, or powders to the incision area
  • Keep bandage in place until doctor recommends removing bandage
  • Bandage or dressing change when soiled (dirty, wet)
  • Call physician or his office if wound is red, warm to touch, has any kind of drainage
  • Maintain washing hands with soap and water when touching wound
  • Wear loose fitting clothes so as not to rub against the incisions

When to Call the Doctor

  • You have trouble moving your hip
  • burning when you empty your bladder (pee)
  • sudden chest pain
  • trouble breathing
  • a feeling like your heart is pounding or racing
  • pain that is getting worse and isn’t helped with medicine
  • a fever higher than 100.5 F, that is not better after taking Acetaminophen (generic Tylenol)
  • pain in the calf area of your leg
  • gained weight: 3 pounds or more in 1 day or 5 pounds or more in 1 week
  • more swelling in your feet, legs, hands, or stomach
  • numbness or change in color of toes or foot
  • headache
  • You feel no energy or are very tired
  • dizzy
  • not hungry
  • an upset stomach or throw up longer than 12 hours
  • uneasy, like something is wrong
  • The place where you had surgery (your incision) is: coming apart, red, draining, bleeding, smells bad or is warm or hurting
  • You're having trouble taking your medications or having a hard time following your doctor’s directions