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Recovering From Surgery

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The recovery room

If you've had general anesthesia, you'll find yourself in a recovery room with other patients after surgery. The staff in the recovery room watches your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, breathing) and waits until you are fully awake and stable. If you feel pain, now is the time to speak up. The recovery room nurses will be ready to give you pain medications prescribed by your surgeon.

You may feel cold after surgery. That's a normal part of the recovery process from anesthesia. Ask for an extra blanket if you need one. If you are going home the same day of surgery, it's a good idea to bring a warm blanket to the hospital to help you feel comfortable on the trip home.

The hospital stay

If you are having a lumpectomy with no lymph node dissection, it's likely that your surgery will be done on an outpatient basis. This means that you can go home on the same day you have your surgery. Mastectomy and lumpectomy with lymph node dissection are more invasive surgeries and require a hospital stay.

Getting moving

Nurses in the hospital are very interested in helping patients become independent. In fact, you may find that your nurse wants you to get moving before you think you're ready! That's because there's medical evidence that people recover more quickly and more effectively the sooner they get moving after surgery.

Your doctor may suggest a schedule such as this for starting activity after surgery:

  • Get out of bed within a few hours after surgery.
  • Begin doing arm exercises the morning after surgery to prevent stiffness.
  • Resume your normal activities a few days after lumpectomy and a few weeks after mastectomy.

Expert Quote

"After a lumpectomy or lymph node dissection, most people feel fine. They haven't been asleep that long, they haven't had much discomfort."

-- Anne Rosenberg, M.D.

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