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Preparing for Surgery

After Your Surgery 

After Surgery Information

For some procedures, you will recover in the PACU and return home on the same day as your surgery (Day Surgery). For other procedures, you will recover in the PACU for a time before being admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay (Inpatient Surgery). In either case, your care team will be there as you recover from anesthesia and make sure it’s safe for you to return home or move to your room.

Following your procedure, your care team will work with you to assess and help manage your pain. Download a PDF guide on what to expect for pain after surgery. This information is for all Mass General Brigham surgical patients. Please follow any specific advice you get from your doctor and reach out to them with questions.

After Your Day Surgery:

Immediately After Surgery

When your surgery is over, you will be brought to the recovery room, called the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). You will be met by your nurse and the nursing assistant. They will take your vital signs and help you manage your pain or nausea. You will rest here until you are ready to sit up in a recliner chair.

During the second phase of your recovery, you will sit in the recliner chair and have something to eat and drink.

Patients usually spend between one and four hours in the PACU, depending on the operation and the type of anesthesia used. Please keep in mind that recovery time varies from patient to patient, so it may be an hour or more.

Before Discharge

Before you are discharged, your nurse will call the adult accompanying you to review your post-operative instructions and answer any questions you may have. You will also receive a written copy of these instructions. At this point you will need someone who is going to be able to drive you home. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home or be discharged alone with any other type of transportation, such as a taxi, Lyft or Uber. When you are ready to be discharged you will be escorted to the main entrance by a staff member. The valet service or your family member or friend may retrieve your car.

Returning Home

You will not feel up to doing much for the rest of the day or longer depending on your type of surgery. Remember, you are going home to recover. An adult should remain with you for at least 24 hours after surgery.

Normal Side Effects of Day Surgery

The following are normal side effects of day surgery and generally do not require medical attention:

  • Generally not feeling well
  • Surgical pain
  • Muscle aches 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Sore throat

Other side effects of day surgery may include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and mouth or jaw pain. These are all normal side effects and are not cause for alarm. Most patients experience some of the above side effects of surgery for one to three days following surgery. Some patients experience no side effects, while others are uncomfortable for a longer period of time.

Side Effects That May Require Medical Attention

The following are side effects that may require medical attention. You should contact your physician immediately if you experience:

  • Severe pain
  • Unexplained/unusually heavy bleeding
  • Persistent vomiting or inability to tolerate liquids for more than one night
  • Temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater

If you are unable to contact your physician and you are experiencing severe symptoms, please go to the Emergency Room closest to you. Please speak with your physician for more specific guidelines on side effects.

Follow-Up Medical Care

You will receive home-care instructions upon your discharge, and your doctor will specify any follow-up care you may need. Day Surgery patients who receive anesthesia will receive a follow-up call the next day from a perioperative nurse. If your surgery is on a Friday, you will be called on Monday.

After Your Inpatient Surgery:

Recovery Room

When your surgery is over, you will be brought to the recovery room, called the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). You will be met by your nurse and the nursing assistant. They will take your vital signs and help you manage your pain or nausea. You will rest here until you are ready to sit up in a recliner chair.

Admissions to Your Surgical Unit

When your care team determines it is safe for you to leave the PACU, you will go to your hospital room. The surgical unit nurses will give you pain medicine and let you know when you can eat, drink and get out of bed, according to your doctor’s orders.

While on the surgical unit, please remember to:

  • Practice any breathing or leg exercises you are taught – even if somewhat uncomfortable – as this will speed your recovery.
  • Make sure you can easily reach your call button, telephone and any other personal items you may need.
  • Use caution when you feel you are ready to walk around and do not get out of bed without help, unless you are instructed otherwise.
Care Coordination

Every patient has a registered nurse Care Coordinator as a member of his or her healthcare team. Care Coordination staff are available to provide information prior to and during your admission to the hospital. Discharge planning begins early in your hospitalization and care coordination staff can help you and your family and friends make plans to help ensure a smooth care transition.

Preparing for Discharge

For your convenience and safety, it is important to begin planning for discharge as early as possible. Please speak with your surgeon prior to your surgery about any special instructions, care and rehab you may need.


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