Whenever you have any kind of surgery, it takes time to recover. Getting over pancreas surgery is no different. The typical recovery time is about two months but everyone is different and every situation is unique. You may know people who have had the same procedure and they have a different recovery timeline. The bottom line is that you can use other people’s experience as a guide but do not be upset with yourself if your recovery timeline is different.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Most people who undergo pancreas surgery will remain in the hospital between three and ten days after the procedure. A lot of the depend on the methods used for the surgery and how things go. While patients are in the hospital, they will be seen by a number of medical professionals to assess and help with the recovery process. The team of surgeons will monitor your progress and someone from that team will see you every day that you are in the hospital.
You may have a lot of questions about your recovery, you should never hesitate to ask those and get the answers you need. If you do not fully understand something, make sure they explain it properly. This is a scary process but having the information you need may help you be a little more at ease.
You should be prepared for some pain after your pancreas surgery. Whether you are having any kind of surgery, from liver surgery to pancreatic surgery to anything else, there will some pain afterwards. The medical staff at the hospital will do everything they can to help and you will be given instructions and medicine to take when you are at home. Make sure you take it all as directed. If you wait until the pain is really intense, the medicine will be less effective.
After your pancreas surgery, your stomach will not function for a few days as normal. This is a normal thing and is called “gastric ileus.” Your hydration needs will be covered by your intravenous line and this will be monitored. Again, everyone is different so it is impossible to accurately predict when you will go back to eating but it should not take too long. When you start eating normally, there may be some hiccups as your stomach situation improves and you start to be able to tolerate solid foods. Once you are able to eat, you can talk to your doctors about being discharged from the hospital. You should plan to have some easily digestible foods at home.
This may seen counterintuitive but the sooner you can get up and walk around, the faster your recovery will be. You can ask the staff to help with this. Even walking around the room will get things going in the right direction.
What should I know about my recovery at home?
First of all, you need to remember that the average time for a recovery from a pancreas surgery is eight weeks (or more). You will need to give your body some time to recover. This is a major surgery. You need to rest and recover. Before you go into the hospital, you should plan for spending at least a few weeks resting when you get out of the hospital.
You will need to pay attention to your dressings and go back to the surgeon if you have any problems. You should schedule a follow up appointment with your surgeon. Some doctors recommend keeping a journal of all that you are able to eat and drink. This can be a good measurement of your progress.
In terms of what you should eat after you get home from your pancreas surgery, you should make it a point to eat small meals throughout the day. It is totally normal to have some nausea and heartburn. Make sure you get enough protein. You will not be moving around a lot during the weeks after your surgery and getting some protein every meal can help you prevent muscle loss.
Recovering from any big surgery is a process. You may have good days and bad days, be good to yourself and take your time. Things will get better as you recover.