Going Home After Thoracic Surgery

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Swedish Thoracic Surgery / First Hill

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You will be provided with specific instructions when it is time to leave the hospital. This information will include: a list of medications, diet instructions, activity restrictions and wound-care guidelines.

Home Instructions After Chest/Lung Surgery (PDF)
Home Instructions following Esophagectomy (PDF)
Benign Esophageal Surgery: Commonly Asked Questions (PDF)

You will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment in the thoracic surgery clinic within two weeks following your hospital stay. You will be scheduled to see one of our nurse practitioners  at your first post-operative clinic visit. Most of the time, you will also see your surgeon at that visit.

If you have any questions or concerns after you arrive home, we encourage you to call our office at (206) 215-6800.

Diet Instruction at Home

Most patients will be eating a regular diet by the time they leave the hospital. A decrease in appetite after surgery is common and can have many causes. Your appetite should return to normal after a few weeks.

Dieticians at Swedish are available to help you with any necessary diet changes after surgery. Dietary information and guidelines will be provided to you before you leave the hospital.

Patients who undergo esophageal surgery will be placed on a special diet for up to six weeks after surgery. You may also have a feeding tube placed at the time of surgery. This will allow us to deliver nutrition to you while you heal after your operation. The feeding tube will be removed in clinic after you are able to take all of your calories by mouth.

Nutrition plays a key role in wound healing. Eating a balanced diet after you leave the hospital is extremely important. Fruits and vegetables will provide the fiber necessary to maintain normal bowel function. Protein is responsible for tissue growth and repair, and carbohydrates provide energy. It is equally important that you drink plenty of fluids.

If your appetite remains poor at home, try to eat four to six small meals a day. A vitamin supplement can also be used.

Daily Activity / Exercise Instruction

Forward motion is critical in the recovery period. We recommend that you take a walk every day after you arrive home. Gradually increase the amount that you walk every day. It is more important to increase your distance than to increase your pace. This will get easier each day that you are out of the hospital.

Most patients will be restricted from lifting more than ten pounds for four to six weeks while the surgical incisions heal. This prevents pain and tension on those muscles that are involved in the surgical repair.

After lung surgery, doing range-of-motion exercises on the operative side will help stretch your muscles and keep your shoulder moving freely.

Since fatigue is present after any surgery, we recommend that you try short periods of activity throughout your day, followed by short periods of rest. After your daily walk, put your feet up and take a nap! But just keep moving throughout the day. Your activity will increase over time. Any activity restrictions will be determined by surgeon. Most patients are able to resume their normal activities as tolerated around six weeks after surgery.