What Is the Bowel Obstruction Surgery Recovery Time?

Bowel obstruction is something very serious. It happens when any part of your small or large intestine becomes blocked, which interrupts the normal movement of fluids, feces and gas, leading to several complications. Some causes of obstruction include: fecal impaction, intestinal adhesions, diverticulitis, strangulated hernias, tumors and even the ingestion of inedible objects or substances. The symptoms may vary and can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and inflammation. Sometimes, a surgery will be needed to treat a bowel obstruction.

Bowel Obstruction Surgery Recovery Time

Generally, the recovery time is from 6 to 8 weeks. Since a bowel obstruction surgery is a major one, the recovery time may vary according to your previous physical condition, age and whether you have any other health issues like hypertension or diabetes.

Usually, you will need to stay in the hospital for a week or so, and during the first few days you will have a tube going from your nose to your stomach until your digestive system can start processing food by its own. The food reintroduction should be made gradually, initiating with liquids and then bland foods until you can start eating normally again.

When to Call a Doctor

You need to follow the diet that your doctor recommends you and stay very alert of any of the following signs and symptoms. If any of these appears, then call your doctor immediately.

  • Smelly or abnormal white, yellow, green or brown substance discharged through the incision
  • The incision gets red, hot and swollen.
  • Bleeding
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or difficult breathing
  • Leg redness, pain or swelling. This symptom may be an indication of a blood clot.
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fever. You need to take notice that low fever may be something normal for the first few days as it will be your body’s reaction to the surgery; however, see a doctor immediately if you get a high fever.
  • Pain that you cannot control with rest and your prescribed medications
  • Incapacity to urinate or defecate
  • Acute, severe pain or swelling of the abdominal area

Tips for the Recovery After Bowel Obstruction Surgery

You already know the bowel obstruction surgery recovery time, so what should you pay attention to during this period?

1. Pain

Experiencing some abdominal pain or discomfort is something completely normal as your body has been recently exposed to trauma and stress. The pain will last for several weeks. You should continue to take pain medications, and if the pain gets unbearable, consult your doctor for a better option.

You can also try simple tips such as putting a cushion on your abdomen when coughing; it can help relieve the strain on your wound.

2. Wound

Depending on how fast you are recovering, you may get your stitches or staples removed when you are discharged from the hospital, but in some cases you may be sent home with them and be requested to go back to an appointment in one or two weeks to get them removed. During this time, you need to keep the wound clean and dry to avoid infection.

You need to keep an eye over your wound. If there is abnormal discharge or swelling, contact your doctor without any delay.

3. Eating and Drinking

If you want to speed up bowel obstruction surgery recovery time, you must follow these tips about eating and drinking.

  • You should start eating gradually, starting from liquid foods and bland foods to solid foods.
  • Dairy, some vegetables and fruits may temporarily make you feel bloated or give you loose stools, and you'd better avoid them in the first days after the surgery.
  • Try having smaller meals. You can have five or six meals per day but with smaller portions.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol until you are fully recovered.

4. Rest and Exercise

Rest is always recommended after having any major surgery. In the case of a bowel obstruction repair, you can walk or do some light activities when you feel like it as long as it does not cause you any pain.

Avoid doing sports or exercises, especially those involving the abdominal area, until your surgeon gives you the approval to do so. Usually, you can return to your normal activities and sports routine after nine to twelve weeks.

5. Hygiene

It is imperative that you maintain good hygiene habits; you can bathe as usual but make sure to keep the wound dry without any residual humidity to avoid infection.

6. Driving

Stay away from the wheel for at least two to three weeks. When you start driving again, make sure that you do not feel uncomfortable while wearing the seat belt.

You also need to be sure that you are able to do a maneuver or an emergency stop if needed without risking to hurt yourself or others.

7. Sexual Activities

You may experience a decrease in your sexual desire and this is something completely normal due to the pain and tiredness.

Eventually your desire is going to return and you need to openly speak to your partner about your feelings. Take it slowly at first and do not engage in any vigorous activity during the first three to four weeks after the surgery.

8. Returning to Work

After knowing bowel obstruction surgery recovery time, you must want to know when you can get back to work. Generally, you will need to stay off work for two to six weeks, depending on several factors like the speed of your recovery process, the activity that you perform during work, if you have had any complications after the surgery, among others. You will need to speak with your surgeon to determine when you are healthy enough to return to work.


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