Going home after Bowel Surgery

Everyone ’s recovery after an operation is different however it is important to remember not to be in too much of a hurry to get back into your normal routine. Your body requires time to heal and recover, more so than you may expect. Listen to your body and do only as much as feels comfortable. Here are a few points that may help in your recovery.

Abdominal pain

It is not uncommon to experience some form of abdominal pain when you go home. This is because you may no longer be taking strong painkillers that were prescribed to you when in hospital on a regular basis. Another reason is that as you become more ambulant and active, your abdominal muscles will be working, often giving you a “pulling” sensation on your wounds. This is normal. You may also experience spasms or “colic” type pains that last a few seconds or minutes, due to your bowel becoming more active and adjusting.

In general, simple painkillers such as paracetamol are recommended, rather than stronger painkillers, which you should aim to taper off over the week if you are sent home with them.

If you experience severe pains that last a few hours, constant cramps, a fever, or you feel generally unwell, contact Dr Jamnagerwalla's rooms on (02) 8578 2805.

Your Bowels

Your bowel habits will change after removal of part of the bowel and you may find your stools become either looser or firmer than before. Some urgency (needing to go quickly to the toilet) and frequency (having to go to the toilet more often than usual to open your bowels) is common initially after surgery. This will usually settle within a few weeks of going home. Your bowels may take 3-6 months to settle into a regular pattern.

Make sure you eat regular meals three or more times a day, drink adequate amounts and take regular walks during the first few weeks after your operation. Try to prevent constipation by consuming a well-balanced diet. You should drink at least eight cups or glasses of fluid daily. There is no restriction on foods you can eat, however it is advisable to have small frequent meals for the first two weeks, rather than large infrequent meals. Make sure you cut meats and large vegetables into smaller pieces and chew them properly.

Rest and Sleep

You will probably be surprised at how tired you feel when you first go home. This is normal. You probably didn’t realise how little you actually do whilst in hospital, not even making a cup of tea. Don’t worry, your strength and stamina will gradually return. It is important to mix activities with some rest as needed, but do get out of bed each day and stay active.

Try to plan a rest time each day, preferably on your bed, where you allow your body to recover and rejuvenate. You may find sleeping at night difficult at first. This may just be because your normal routine has been disturbed, or you may have some discomfort or restricted movement. It is not uncommon to still have some pain when you first go home. A mild painkiller, such as paracetamol, before you go to bed may help.


After a major operation, your body will take at least 6-8 weeks to recover, sometimes longer. If your job requires heavy manual work, you will not be able to return for 6-8 weeks. If you are able to return to light duties, you may be able to go back to work earlier. If your work does not involve physical labour, you may be able to resume in 4 weeks. You may wish to consider going back part-time initially if this is possible, or work from home.


You should not drive until you are confident that you can drive safely. You should not start to drive again until your strength and speed of movement are up to coping with an emergency stop. You should also make sure that you are not drowsy from any painkillers and that your concentration is good. Most people do not start to drive for at least two weeks, and some will take longer, depending upon the operation they have had. If you find the seat belt uncomfortable over your scar, a folded towel between you and the seatbelt may help.

It might be sensible to check that you are insured to drive after surgery before you start driving again after your operation.

Your Wound

You will generally go home with a waterproof dressing over your wounds. You should leave this on for a total of one week after your discharge date. After this time, you may remove your dressings and shower or bath with them left uncovered, but try and avoid direct contact with harsh soaps or shower gels. Make every effort to wash them off the wound if contact occurs and pat the wound dry after you have finished.


Having an operation can be a stressful experience, physically and emotionally. When you first go home you are likely to feel tired and unwell for a while. Things will get better. It will take three to six months to feel completely back to normal. It is common to feel a bit low in the first weeks and to become frustrated that you cannot do everything that you would like to do. Please be patient.

If you have any concerns or questions, you can phone Dr Jamnagerwalla’s rooms on (02) 8578 2805 or alternatively, speak to one of the nurses on the ward you were staying.