What can I expect during my recovery?

Your recovery starts immediately after your operation when you are still in the hospital. For many surgical procedures there is now no need to rest in bed for a long time after surgery or the need to be ‘nil by mouth’ postoperatively. Many hospitals will aim to get you Drinking, Eating and Mobilising within 24 hours of surgery, known as DrEaMing. Patients who do so have shorter hospital stays and reduced complications. Ask the healthcare team when you can drink, eat or mobilise after the operation.

Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will give you written information about what to expect during your recovery at home and how to manage any pain you might experience. This will also include anything to look out for and a number to call if you are worried.

Our factsheets on some of the most common surgical operations give more detailed information on how to prepare for different types of surgery and what to expect afterwards.

Practical help to keep you motivated during your recovery

Depending on what surgery you are having, recovery may take many weeks. Don’t worry if some days go better than others, as this is normal. It can be useful to keep a recovery diary which you can continue after you go home. Try and get into a routine and get up in the morning at a regular time. A list of daily goals can give structure to your day and help monitor your progress.

Visits and phone calls from family and friends can cheer you up and encourage you to reach your goals. If you have the technology, make use of WhatsApp, Facetime and online platforms like Zoom to keep in touch with people. Be careful though not to tire yourself out.

Additional resources available online

Royal College of Anaesthetists

Centre for Perioperative Care

NHS Getting Better Sooner

British Dietetic Association

Royal College of Surgeons of England

Patient recovery and exercises