Do not wear tight clothing that rubs against the incision while it is healing. Use thin gauze over the wound to protect it, if needed.
If you have a colostomy, follow your doctor’s care instructions.
If you have a rectal incision, sitting on a pillow may help.
Eat small amounts of food 5 to 8 times a day, instead of 3 big meals.
Space out your small meals. Wait the same amount of time between each one.
Add new foods back in slowly, one or two at a time.
Try to eat plenty of protein.
Some foods may cause gas, loose stools, or constipation when you are recovering. Avoid the foods that cause these problems.
If you become sick to your stomach or have diarrhea, try drinking only clear fluids and not eating for a little while. Call your doctor.
To keep from getting dehydrated (not having enough fluid in your body), keep water or fruit juice on hand.
If you have hard stools:
Try to get up and walk around more. Being more active can help.
If you can, take less of the pain relievers your doctor gave you. They can make you constipated.
You may use stool softeners if your doctor tells you it is okay.
Ask your doctor or nurse whether you can take milk of magnesia or magnesium citrate. Do not take other laxatives without asking your doctor first.
Ask your doctor if it is okay to eat foods that contain a lot of fiber or take psyllium (Metamucil).
Returning to Work
Return to work only when you feel ready to. These tips may help:
You are probably ready when are active around the house for 8 hours and still feel okay when you wake up the next morning.
You may want to start back part-time and on light duty at first.
Your doctor can write a letter to limit your work activities if you normally do heavy labor.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if:
You have a fever over 101 °F, or a fever that does not go away with acetaminophen(Tylenol).
Your belly is swollen.
You feel sick to your stomach or you are throwing up a lot. You cannot keep food down.
You have not had a bowel movement 4 days after leaving the hospital.
You have been having bowel movements, and they suddenly stop.
You have black or tarry stools, or there is blood in your stools.
You are having belly pain that is getting worse, and pain medicines are not helping to ease your pain.
Your colostomy has stopped putting out any water or stools for a few days.
Your abdomen gets swollen and you are throwing up.
There are changes in your incision:
The edges are pulling apart
Green or yellow drainage is coming from it.
It is redder, warm, swelling, or more painful.
Your bandage is soaked with blood.
You are short of breath or are having chest pain.
Your legs are swelling.
You have pain in your calves.
You have increased drainage from your rectum.
You have a feeling of heaviness in your rectal area.
Fry RD, Mahmoud N, Maron DJ, Ross HM, Rombeau J. Coln and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 50.
Shabir Bhimji MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Inc.